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Review 1, 10-1: Remove Head Before Jumping in Armchair
Non Sequiturs for the Artistically Obstructed from Thierree
By Angela Jones
Copyright 2002 Angela Jones
NEW YORK -- Very occasionally,
we get the privilege of seeing theater that acts as conceptual springboard
for our own imaginations to take flight. James Thierree's "Junebug
Symphony," playing at the New Victory Theater through October 13
and seen this past weekend, is the certain mix of entertainment,
concepts, circus, movement, set design, and musicality that I hope
will be the beginning of an evolution in theatre. Whether you are
4 and a half years old or 50 and three quarters, this show is insistent
on surprising and delighting you with its truly original ideas and
Whether a young man
skates through mist while playing a complex violin solo or simply
takes off his head and places on the ground beside his bed, or suddenly
runs and in a state of panic jumps head first into an armchair,
you find yourself smack in the middle of a surreal world where the
skittering subconscious is king and the linear mind has been so
stunned it forgot to say "shotgun." It's a place where paintings
sing arias, slithering creatures emerge from the closet to assume
the forms of the furniture, and mirrors have a mind of their own.
The fact that no real through-line exists doesn't seem to matter
a bit. Every part morphs into something else seamlessly, and in
general the flow completely has its own kind of illogical sense
to it. From moment to moment we might slip from dark aggression
to carefree silliness, and we ride along with abandon.
Only toward the end
of "Junebug Symphony" do the prolific ideas of the director seem
to get in the way of that narrative sense, in a sudden onslaught
of totally unconnected pieces that simply make an appearance for
30 seconds and leave without reason. If some bits could have been
cut out and others developed to flow into each other, the second
half would have avoided what seems like a ploy to simply show us
more and more cool tricks. The first aerial act, in which Raphaelle
Boitel's contortionist/junebug and Thierree's central character
share a moment of tenderness while flying through the air on a chandelier,
is breathtaking, but the second high-flying trapeze act simply becomes
a circus-y act most New Yorkers have seen many times before. However,
these very few "look Ma" moments did not take away from most of
the piece, where physical skill was taken to new artistic heights.
Honestly, my own real
disappointment in the show came when I realized it was a French
troupe. I was desperately hoping that Americans had begun to take
these kind of risks and move beyond our firmly entrenched boundaries
and the ridiculously obsessive concern with definitions: dance vs.
theatre and entertainment vs. art. However, I do hope that such
productions can and will inspire more people to really see what
is really possible.
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