Sometimes I wonder if, in the coming years, a new Martin Esslin will come along, a guide to let us know of some type of neo-Theatre of the Absurd, but not, a form ushered into the U.S. post-9/11. Albeit more political, less syntactical, there is a trend of quiet ennui, detachment from the world around us that’s strongly influenced by not only the Absurd but also 60s underground cinema and the explosion of pop culture. Meditations by groups such as Temporary Distortion, Richard Maxwell’s NYC Players and, of course, WaxFactory would be a part of this eerie, nuanced aesthetic.
And WaxFactory’s Delirium 27 at Abron Arts was a fascinating experiment in aestheticized individualism and memory, even if it doesn’t always come together. Centering around Mr. Black (Eric Dean Scott), the piece sets him in an undisclosed location, being interrogated by two mysterious detectives (which are played with amazing presence by Primoz Bezjak and Miha Klemencic). As they dance the dance of film noir of obstinacy and double talk concerning the murder of a woman (Gillian Chadsey), the performance cuts back and forth between a useless present, interpretation of the past, and memories in all their glory—fuzzy, idealized, incomplete, projected.
The technological accompaniments to the play on memory—live, washed out video feeds, wonderful music and warped sound, and an almost constant, amplified humming of fluorescent lights—are quite lovely. But the screens become pedantic when they flash quotations and factoids, such as the lack of scientific evidence for a “photographic memory.” The words are blurred and they slides are displayed with virtually no time to read them. Perhaps it’s meant to correlate with perception, the inadequacy of committing experience to memory, but in its actualized form it’s either intrusive or downright annoying.
What’s most frustrating is that the strong moments are incredibly so. Director and writer Erika Latta knows how to stage her actors, and many of the images are quite entrancing in their control, fluidity, punctuated by slapstick chaos. The technical design is evocative, but the haphazardness of the text and stilted architecture of physical and technical elements of the stage (the piece is billed as a “performance-installation,” despite its traditional proscenium staging) prevent the whole from getting off the ground.
I hope WaxFactory continues their investigation into memory and
aesthetics—they’re working with a lot of good stuff but performance, like
memory, is not an autonomous form: the pathways and circuitry are almost
impossibly complicated, intricate, and ephemeral.