Theater archives

Awash in Complexity


Would it interest you to know that Google posts 638,000 entries relating to “clusterfuck?” The title and content of Levi Gonzalez’s eponymous new work could be pinned to quite a few of them, which fact is, in itself, a sort of clusterfuck. Leaving out the word’s reference to a sexual daisy chain, it encompasses all kinds of mess, complexity, confusion, anarchy, and possibly deadly screwups (think Iraq).

When Clusterfuck begins, performers and spectators alike are bathed in lights bright enough for an interrogation room. Standing pressed against the back wall, heads bowed, Gonzalez, Hristoula Harakas, Isabel Lewis, and Kayvon Pourazar very slowly build minimal shifts from foot to foot into a step-touch, step-touch pattern that accelerates and starts moving them along the wall. A sleepwalking chorus line. I thought I heard one of them snore.

A blast of sound by James Lo and a switch to more typically theatrical lighting by Joe Levasseur interrupts their neat but lackadaisical drills. The four freeze and confront us, staring, striking uncomfortable poses (Lewis pulls half of her hair and her head way over to one side). They’re too glum to be revolutionaries.

The program offers a quote from Dave Hickey that begins, “Rock and roll. . .presumes we might possibly get it together, play this simple song, and play it right. Just this once, in tune and on the beat. But we can’t. The song’s too simple, and we’re too complicated and too excited.” In other words, folks do their best, but shit happens, and art has a way of getting out of an artist’s control.

Before long, the performers are enmeshed in clutter of their own making. Actually of the choreographer’s making. Gonzalez tosses pillows, blankets, cartons, rubber bath toys, a ball, stuffed animals, toilet paper, plastic bags, crepe paper streamers, and what all onto the stage. No one wants to play in this sandbox. Instead, stopping occasionally to stare into space, the dancers feed into and out of fairly clear, loose-bodied movement patterns, trying to ignore the objects they stumble over or have to kick away; more than once someone walks along with a foot tangled in paper. They’re not particularly friendly to one another either. While Harakas stands, hunched over, arms stretched to each side as if she’s been hung out to dry, Pourazar picks her pocket.

The confusion and unfulfilled projects escalate, as in a digitally deranged world. The piece itself has ADD, and it could be catching. Short snatches of well- known melodies erupt and die in Lo’s clamorous score. So long, Fleetwood Mac, hello Rite of Spring; “Tonight” meet “White Christmas.” People go offstage and return with more junk; now it includes pillows with the stuffing coming out. They retreat to their basic chaining steps, but what good does it do for them to pull the backs of their sweaters up and over their heads when their pants are coming down? Harakas rouses herself from where she’s been lying like a discarded doll to whip the floor with a plastic sheet. Gonzalez lashes himself into a lurching, flailing, repetitive ordeal, which fatigue eventually undermines. The others start pelting him with stuff. The choreographer beset by his own creation!

One of the work’s texts surely has to do with manic consumption and waste. Gonzalez, however, is no sober-sided Al Gore. The four likeable performers abandon their lethargy and dark looks and use a long rubber strip as a slingshot. We’re now part of the mess in the playground and part of the problem. Duck everyone! Here comes a bunny!