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Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Room of One's Own...

Ellen Lauren in Room

Directed by Anne Bogart, if you want to see Viewpoints in action go see Room at The Women’s Project. A meticulous physical performance combined with a cerebral interpretation of the late great Virginia Woolf in all her glory of mad genius. The performance is hypnotic and inspiring. You will not be unmoved. As an aspiring novelist, I was uplifted by the gifts of text delivered with laser-like precision by the masterful Ellen Lauren. What a treasure, a must see for all who count themselves artists in the post modern world. Friends who are interested, we have a half price ticket offer we’d be happy to share. Contact me for details. Life is so good, three shows in the last week, three worth while experiences and we are not finished with the month of March yet…

Saturday, March 12, 2011

They Call Me Mac...

St Ann’s Warehouse presents
Frantic Assembly
National Theatre of Scotland

Beautiful Burnout
Text by Bryony Lavery
Directed and Choreographed by
Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett.

Anyone who has had padded leather fists thrust into his or her face and tasted his or her own blood in his or her mouth will immediately identify with the electric performance delivered by the stellar cast of Beautiful Burnout. For those who abhor the “sweet science” for the barbaric and ultimately cruel element of humanity it deifies, you will identify with the electric performance delivered by the stellar cast of Beautiful Burnout.

The folks who brought us the amazing Black Watch a few seasons ago have triumphantly returned to Brooklyn with a piece inspired by a visit to our own Gleason’s Gym. This amazingly accurate and unglamorous look at the world of a boxer from humble roots, to sweaty gym, to goals inspired by lofty ambitions and finally bitter reality, is a one hour and forty minute piece that will engage your senses from start to finish.

One of the many highlights is a movement piece where every gesture a boxing referee might make is choreographed into an absolutely sublime dance to which even a novice of the square ring can relate and admire.

I could go on at length about my love/hate relationship with boxing, how many of its core disciplines represent the best values of humanity, but how, like anything pure and good humans strive for, the attraction of our darker natures seems to be exponentially magnified as well. Attention to detail in story telling is paramount to this production: Fact. Science and social nature entwine in this tragic tale of heroes and heroines, mentors and men-tees, obedience and rebellion. Definitely worth the trip to the Brooklyn waterfront. Now through the 27th. In DUMBO

My own brief incursion into boxing happened many years ago inspiring a one-person show performed in the Knitting Factory once upon a time...once upon a time they called me Mac...

By Mark D Ransom

He stands
As if an alabaster David
With padded gloves fixed to wrists
Like cudgels on arms of old.

Young, strong, determined and
Alone against his foe, his fear,
He woos a maddened crowd
Cheering for a champion
Shouting for redemption
Hollering for Blood.

Smoke rises above the din,
Rules of engagement are exchanged
Like mean pleasantries,
Before a harsh alarm rings
And two combatants begin.

He moves.
Sinuous muscle wrought in
Furnaces of pain,
Sweat, anger and guile
Sweetly fly into motion
Defying science as
Living, moving, grunting

Driven through crushing blows
Never to surrender
With a pounding heart

He falls.
Broken like Achilles,
Laurels, limelight and spoils of
Victory elude his reach
For yet another day.

He sits
Alone and exhausted,
Empty upon a heavy canvas
His essence flows
Like color from brush strokes
Painting yet
Another saga of sorrow
Pain and Hope

Monday, March 7, 2011


As you enter the theater at HERE, the first thing you notice is a partition which has been partially demolished next to a closed door. You may, as you walk past this set piece, peer through that opening to notice a hospital bed with someone in it. As you round the corner to find a seat you will undoubtedly note that indeed, Jesse, played by Jennifer-Conley Darling is pre-set in the bed, she is a feedee who has gone immobile in her quest to weigh 1000 lbs. That is to say, she is willfully gaining weight with the aid of her husband and feeder, Noel played by Pierre-Marc Diennet. You will also notice that you have little or no information in your program about the play you are about to experience.

This is not an oversight. (A link to a PDF will be provided after the show.) A web-log of the characters is available on line. If you have not checked it out before coming to the theater, there is a MAC set up in the lounge where you can read Noel’s blog entries or watch him on video. You will notice the playing space demarcated by long slender tables which look like a pantry stocked with cans of Goya beans and frozen pizza boxes neatly arranged and stacked. You also notice television monitors suspended from the ceiling. Cameras trained on the players have been planted through out the set. The only thing you can not do is ignore the 750 lb woman in the room, or the device stored in a corner used to lift her from the bed so sheets can be changed.

Director José Zayas has taken James Carter’s script and run it through a production team which includes scenic design by Peter Ksander and Video & Projection Design by Alex Koch who may well have changed the way we experience Black Box Studio Theater forever. Their work alone is worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, though the acting was first rate excellent, the play seems to take on too many topics at once.

The issue of the play is the fringe fetish of Feederism, a practice where-by one enjoys sexual gratification from feeding their partners in a foodie version of dominance and submission. Mealtime becomes foreplay, and this couple doesn't just play with their food, they fuck with it. Complicating this sensual pleasure are facts like Noel’s predilection for women of size, and Jesse's willingness to become totally dependent on Noel for even her most basic needs perhaps pointing to a problem with low self esteem.

The couple meets on line. This is where the entire theme of technology continues, for it truly begins when you open your promotional e-mail and become attracted to the provocative photo of a woman reclining on red satin sheets surrounded by a sumptuous feast or when you Google "feederism" or perhaps check out the web-log where you may find out that Noel is not only a dominant feeder, but also a webmaster of many fetish sites including a few he develops after he begins his relationship with Jesse in order to support their "Lifestyle" making him a true celebrity in this loosely connected virtual community.

The inciting action takes place when a former employer of Jesse's, a television show host/producer who seems to be a cross between Oparh and Nancy Grace, stages an intervention and literally breaks Jesse out of the apartment she shares with Noel through the wall. The characters tell their story to cameras, Noel on webcasts and Jesse to Judith who is doing a feature documenting Jesse’s recovery. Interspersed there are flashbacks of Jesse and Noel’s life together, their courtship, wedding, and their huge plans for Jesse to become the biggest woman in the world.

In the end the premise is never fully explored or expressed, instead all we get is the sensationalized Jerry Springer-esque detritus which results from the slanted, edited media exposure of our darkest and most mysterious impulses. Jesse reclaims her sense of self-worth and mobility with the help of Judith, the TV producer, though she would still take Noel back. But Noel? Well you have to judge Noel for yourself. I am certain I left the theater knowing less about the subject than when I entered, but one thing was crystal clear: the lens through which we may experience life was altered to the point where I found myself watching an actor on a monitor rather than watch the actor on the stage and it’s not because I was too far away. That disturbs me more than any fetish.

Over 30 people in the production staff for a 75 minute, one act, two-hander that packs three issues into one play: Feederism as a fetish, fat acceptance/fat prejudice as social phenomena, and the ubiquitous incursion of technology into every corner of our lives rendering boundaries between the virtual and the real permanently and irrevocably blurred. Zayas and company scratch the surface of the first two issues while concentrating heavily on the latter, consequently the human story, provocative and mysterious as always, seems merely rendered as a vehicle for…tech.

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