Posted by: strugglesome | September 14, 2011

Begin the Beguine: Found Theater Presents Event End

Blame it on John Cusack or Harold Camping, but people seem to have the end of days on the brain in these troubled times. Perhaps it comforts people to know that there is a foreseeable end to this messy existence, or perhaps it scares people, the finality of it all, but there is a newfound obsession with apocalypse now. And of course, both ironically and expectedly enough, it’s not the aged who are worried about the world undone, but the young. In this case we have Event End, created and presented by Found Theater Company, a fairly fetal collective of performance artists who aim to “provide a playground in which the audience and performer may experience and influence the evolution of the theatrical arts”. Of course. Don’t we all.

And so Found Theater Company is starting at the end, rather than at the oh so conventional beginning. Staged in a charmingly creepy building in Northern Liberties, or, technically, JUNOGI (Just North Of Girard, for those not in the know), among piles of rusted devices and packing materials and dark dusty rooms, the piece leads it’s audience through a staircase of goodbye notes and piping and into a cramped little studio filled with desks, papers, and people dressed in black and white. Some of the large cast (which includes Kerry Brind’Amour, Robert Carlton, Laura Edoff, Michael Grant, Justin Howe, Sean Lally, Claire Lenahan, Matt Lorenz, Lee Minora, Jordan Mottram and Phoede Schaub) move rhythmically and forcefully around the claustrophobic space, stamping scraps of documents, humming, trotting to and fro. At some point they talk about the third world war. At some point it’s a circus. At some point they sing, which is quite lovely, by the way. Then they sprinkle feathers everywhere. Then they sing again. Can I be more specific? Like, about the who, or the why, or the what? No, I really can’t, because this piece is as opaque as it is exclusive, as indecipherable as it is a sensory overload.

In a piece that works very hard to signify, to indicate and to land on its audience, it just, well, doesn’t. It misses the boat on meaning and, far worse, it allows the spectator no opportunity to enter the work, to bear witness rather than see it from a distance. Actors look into the sea of faces observing them but never seem to see or connect with us, and no effort is made to make sure we follow where they lead. We are excluded from the piece on an immediate and fundamental level and as a result it is divorced from our consciousness, we cannot care about any of its occupants, they are far too far away. And as a result very little can be said about the talents of this particular group of performers/creators. Do they commit to their work? Absolutely. Are they sincere and serious? Sure. Does that commitment, that sincerity, make any sense under the circumstances? Well, not to me, at least. And so, despite energetic performances by each member of the cast, we as the audience are left abused by the actors. After all, they spend a lot of time yelling at us, and we have no idea why. It’s like spending time in a foreign police station for a crime that is only a crime in that particular country, like chewing gum in Singapore. You know you haven’t done anything wrong, but you feel vaguely guilty anyway. I don’t know about you, but that is certainly most of why I go to a performance.

And what is the piece itself, then? Vague themes of worlds ending, nuclear holocausts starting and death pervading manage to float their ways up to the surface only to be ruthlessly pushed back down with a musical interlude or sudden rhythmic shift. Exchanges like:

What’s a five letter word for apocalypse?

Party!

No, World War 3!

couldn’t make less sense if they tried. And they certainly aren’t going to help anyone with the crossword. Lorenz in his capacity as demented news anchor gets the best possible lines of the work, like, “This just in, everything is slowly killing you”, and Lally fills the space with a real sense of danger, if not comprehension, while Edoff dances beautifully, haunted by something we can’t see. But these are brief moments of clarity in a world of confusion. By the end of the piece we can, of course, understand the central concept at play here, the end of the world is frightening, debilitating, absurd and uncomfortable, and science fiction accounts of it only make it more so. And the final song, a choral version of Kid Cudi’s Sky Might Fall, is lovely, sweetly sung and visually scored by open umbrellas, daring bad luck to fall at the edge of existence. But that still doesn’t explain anything about this piece, or help us feel a part of something, like we’ve borne witness to trauma and revelation and have come out on the other side. Instead, we wonder what the hell just happened, and why it happened at all. Maybe it’s too much to hope that meaning will follow an apocalypse play. But hell, if Medieval Christians could do it, shouldn’t we at least try?

Found Theater Company’s Event End runs until the 18th of September. You can pick up tickets here.

Comments? Questions? Concerns? I welcome them all! Please feel free to comment below!

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Responses

  1. This review is dead wrong.


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