Federico García Lorca was fascinated by New York, but he didn’t like it. Its noise and bustle unnerved him; he kept looking for the soul in the machine. Having gone abroad partly to escape his unrequited love for the confrontational but unresponsive painter Salvador Dalí, he kept finding images of death-in-life, later embodied in his Poeta en Nueva York.
Pig Iron Theatre’s treatment of Lorca’s journey, co-written by its sole performer, Dito van Reigersberg, and its director, Dan Rothenberg, is part docudrama, part poetry performance, and part a surreal gestural ballet based on images drawn from Lorca’s writings and other accounts of his stay. Including Lorca and Dalí, van Reigersberg plays 11 characters, ranging from the Harlem blues singer Victoria Spivey to the ghost of Lorca’s revered Walt Whitman. This is way too much for a 60-minute solo piece; as the agile van Reigersberg leaps from miming industrial machinery to acting out the epistolary bickerings of poet and painter, the central figure keeps slipping away. Still, it’s so full of exhilaratingly good things that it’s one of the rare pieces of which I can honestly say I wish it were longer.