By Miriam Felton-Dansky
By Lilly Lampe
By R. C. Baker
By Tom Sellar
By Alexis Soloski
By Molly Grogan
By R. C. Baker
Waltz has said that the pieces three sections move from abstraction to realism to surrealism, and that seems true. The entire action takes place in a deserted building, maybe a school or club, with paint-blotched walls, a resonantly micd wooden floor, three different kinds of doors, the remnants of pipes and electrical equipment, a cot, buckets, chairs, a table (design by Thomas Schenk and Waltz). Some unspecified disaster is happening outside. In the first scene, the 16 performers, wearing nondescript clothes (costumes by Beate Borrmann), arrive gradually, come and goalways making you aware that what is outside this building is dangerous. Jonathan Beplers ominous sound score (larded with bits of Bach) and Martin Hauks lighting maintain the sense of threat.
During the first part, Waltz uses choreography to suggest the tasks of maintaining equilibrium and forming alliances. The section is rich with amazing, beautifully designed counterbalances. In twos and threes, the 16 powerful dancers hook onto one another in unusual ways. You may see one bent over, another nestling beneath, and a third lying across them, board-stiff. Once two men interlock, balanced on only one of thems right foot. A rhythm develops; a performer enters just in time to relieve a colleague or complete a design.
But gradually the pace accelerates, and difficulties arise. A man crashes to the floor, the lights get brighter, the sound score noisier. One man (Matija Ferlin) climbs onto the platform above one of the doors and becomes a leader. Virgis Podziunis collapses, and the crowd reacts as if he has some disease. Dont touch him, Ferlin yells; women wash him. People climb on the chairs, the tables. They darent leave; if they open one door, smoke billows in. Liza Alpizar Aguilar leaves and returns, sobbing uncontrollably. They develop strategies for survival, dole out mush, drink water theyve acquired by attaching a long pipe to one of those high on the wall. Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola plays a tiny keyboard and some join him in wanly discordant singing. Finally, smoke and flames pour in, and an electric circuit blows out, sparking. You hear buildings toppling. The stage goes black.
After that, you may expect. . .what? At first, it seems that Waltz is going to provide a quiet, desperate, getting-on-with-life denouement to this griping scene. The sun seems to be shining outside. All is quiet. The people enter numbly. But this is the surreal partmeaning, I guess, that disaster has unhinged everyone. Aguilar has been carried to the cot and covered up. Podziunis (I think its he), pulls up a floorboard, lays it across the cots headboard and footboard, and curls up on it, balanced above her. Pointless or deranged tasks proliferate. A man nails his shoes to the wall, and later, another man tries to help a woman put her feet into them. Xuan Shi attempts to build a tower of bricks retrieved from under the floor. People squabble over trivia, fight, and pull the floor apart, board by board. They start piling stuff on the cot, as if ready to wheel it away, but when Sasa Queliz parks on it and decides she owns the whole thing, the others start stealing the items out from under her.
After a while, I wonder, charitably, whether Waltz feels that this excessively bizarre behavior has to go one for a long time so you can feel how fatally this society has been damaged. But, less charitable now, I think that the act of dreaming up weird bits for everyone has gotten out of control. Of course, when the lights finally go out, we applaud the tremendously valiant and skillful performers and stagger for the door, hoping thatespecially on this deep, dark post-election nightthe subways will be running and the stars will still be shining for us.