Some shows you leave needing to tell people about; some shows you leave thinking about what you are going to have for dinner. A few shows ruin your dinner.
If you’re a drama critic, you are likely to find all of these relatively easy to describe both what happened on stage and how you reacted.
But what if a show leaves you….without words? Not necessarily dumbfounded, just dumb – or at least struggling to summon up something to say. Three I saw this week fit this category, each of them an hour long.
Cezary Goes To War
This show from Poland, directed by Cezary Tomaszewski, ran recently at La MaMa for four performances. (Link to the digital program) It was in Polish with English surtitles, and featured four men who each told us they were Cezary Tomaszewski at different ages of his life. They danced around a lot, singing songs while a woman pianist, Weronika Krówka, played music composed by Stanisław Moniuszko, the father of Polish national opera, as well as Händel, Debussy and Shostakovich. Other than the songs, the text consisted mostly of a 1994 decree from the Polish Ministry of National Defense describing at length the different categories of fitness for military service, from A. “impeccable physical condition” to E. “abnormal tendencies detrimental to bodily function and long history of disease.” Various of the Cezarys object to his classification, and appeals to his draft board to reclassify him from E to A.
The dancing was well-coordinated and often looked like calisthenics (as military trainees might perform?) Other people in the audience responded with great enthusiasm.
From the website: “Cezary Goes to War subverts gender norms and exposes the fragility of the patriarchy.” Ok.
As Long As It Lasts
Running at the Cherry Lane Theater through February 8, this almost solo show features a bathtub, a timer, and a projection of an eye, as well as two blackboards with 50 sentences or phrases chalked on them, like “1. Love is not love.” And “31. Feeding the pigeons.” Erik Borsuk sits at a table and picks numbers at random from a bingo bin, at which point Eileen Kelly tells a story prompted by the numbered phrase, and then Borsuk rings a bell and goes to the next number. The audience members were each given bingo cards to fill out, but it all went by too quickly for me to fill out my card. The idea apparently was to get through all 100 phrases on the blackboard in an hour. What Kelly said for most of the phrases lasted way less than a minute and would be hard to describe as a story; some were non-verbal. Occasionally she stood on the edge of the bathtub, or jumped inside of it. She changed her outfit a few times. She looked as if she was having fun.
Must Go On
Billed with As Long As It Lasts as part of
“American Dreaming lovelust + disastering,” but with separate admission, this show (also through February 8) features Patrick Quinn dancing to a variety of canned music, while he changes costumes with the help of Jeremiah Oliver. The promise according to the website was to thrill with “100 costume changes in exactly 60 minutes.”
, I doubt it was 100 changes, although I didn’t count, but it was more than 60 minutes (I did count that.)
The costumes were, on the whole, so unremarkable as hardly to qualify as costumes (mostly t-shirts), although he did struggle into a memorably tight-fitting head-to-toe outfit with a paisley design that made him look like a suburban mummy. At one point he picked up a banana as if it were a telephone receiver, and then brushed his teeth with whiskey. At other times he started eating a cantaloupe, and a muffin. He stirred an egg and put it in a microwave. There was an uncredited cameo by somebody in what looked like a Halloween costume that obscured his or her face.
Can self-indulgence be art?