In Chelsea’s burgeoning gallery district, a building previously occupied by photographer Annie Leibowitz is morphing into a theater. Underwritten by Nancy Walton Laurie, daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, an ensemble of 32 directed by L.J. Ballard performs Raw, a meandering two-hour pastiche with many writers, one choreographer, some really talented dancers, a pair of glamorous strolling violinists, and a misguided design concept.
Swivel stools for spectators clump together in the center of a huge empty space with a concrete floor. Around the edges, projected videos and a series of scenes are connected by processions of zombie-like whiteface dancers called the “tribe of vultures.” We strain to watch and hear a couple of distraught soldiers, a recital of the horrors of the Holocaust, a confrontation between a neo-Nazi punk and a pair of reporters, another between workers locked in a butcher’s freezer. There’s a distracted Othello, a betrayed girl with three alter egos, and most successfully, a woman climbing a brick wall to escape rapists. Choreographed by Benoit Swan-Pouffer, “dolls” arrayed on shelving come powerfully to life. Longtime Feld dancer Nickemil Concepcion is a mainstay of this troupe; one prays that its apparently limitless resources will attract more promising material.