Theater archives



In California, which marks John Jasperse’s second appearance at the Next Wave Festival, four emotionless workers in industrial coveralls carefully step into a high-tech staging area. Architect Ammar Eloueini’s cold, gray grid of polycarbonate looms above them. The laborers manipulate—but never touch—the fragile, folding stage-wide object, their pauses erratically punctuated by rapid, interconnecting arm and leg moves. But in Jasperse’s pointed critique of technocracy and an industrial culture that invades all of life, the workers never truly leave the workplace. Joe Levasseur’s industrial lighting and Jonathan Bepler’s unsettling mix of electronic, organic, and mechanical sounds convey a worker’s nightmare. As in Jasperse’s earlier works, bodies need and seek—but rarely find—lasting support on any surface, or rest beneath a shell that gives no shelter. A revealing duet between Jasperse and Katy Pyle follows an ostensibly extreme—and yet dispassionate—gesture in the middle of the hour-long piece. But all that follows in California seems to ask: Can emotional neutrality effect radical change? Is there such a thing as a passionless revolt? When human feelings are all but eradicated, does the capacity to rebel remain?