If theater should be a moving experience, OFFstage: The East Village Fragments must certainly be the season’s theatrical highlight. Few works have ever kept their spectators in such constant, breathless motion. The area traversed, from Astor Place to East 4th Street, may be compact, but the whirlwind barrage of text, using excerpts from 25 plays of the early Off-Off era, keeps your mind spinning while your feet hurry to keep up with the crowd. Much more seamless than last fall’s
West Village Fragments in the way it links scenes together, Peculiar Works Project’s new foray into the history of the movement makes both memories of the old Off-Off and the possibility of its youthful rebirth seem tangible. Leonard Melfi’s
Birdbath on a brownstone stoop, Sam Shepard’s Rock Garden
against the fence of St. Mark’s Church, Hair with the chorus in the Public Theater’s window alcoves, two riotous “rival” productions of Charles Ludlam’s
Conquest of the Universe under a construction scaffold, and for a finish, Megan Terry’s
Viet Rock in a grim metallic hallway-—it’s all there, in its outrage and exhilaration, a chance waiting to be seized. Grab this joyous chunk of the past and,when you’ve caught your breath, start contemplating the future.