Foreman of the Board

The Beckettian power of Foreman's vision is on display in director David Finkelstein's version of Permanent Brain Damage, a three-character enactment of a woman's journey into the core of her damaged being. An older actress (the haunting Alice Teirstein) and a younger one (Moira Stone) speak cryptically from the balcony, while a middle-aged puppeteer and dancer (the drag performer Agnes DeGarron) mutely flails around in her own colorful confusion. A split red cabbage occupying two bowls of fiendishly bubbling seltzer water serves as the physical reminder of the damaged brain, the apparent source of the ensuing interior pageant. To an eclectic soundtrack of music and elliptical comments, the silent woman (whose life, we are told, has left her mentally short-circuited) dons an array of cockeyed head wraps and hats, vestigial signs of a life once filled with hope. Impressively performed in an understated yet profoundly absurd manner, the production derives a powerful emotional current from DeGarron's wounded, clownlike persona. With his saucer eyes, rubbery limbs, and peculiar genius for handling scarves, he brings poignant life to this elusive, mind-tickling stage poem.

Michaelangelo Barasorda IV (left) and Ian Hill in Harry in Love: Richard Foreman's ontological romantic comedy
photo: Hiroyuki Ito
Michaelangelo Barasorda IV (left) and Ian Hill in Harry in Love: Richard Foreman's ontological romantic comedy

Strange, often baffling, but always deeply felt, Foreman's body of work is a testament to a playwright's search for fresh and unimagined ways of experiencing reality. Discarding conven- tional pieties and theatrical expectations, he continually forces himself to start from scratch, a newborn empiricist determined to remain faithful to the flux of life. The risks of such artistic commitment are one with the rewards. But, as the sparsely attended festival disturbingly suggests, for those pursuing an analogous path today, the risks may be the only reward.

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