Twenty-one years ago, the performance group Goat Island formed in Chicago. After a successful career that included tours in Europe, the U.S., and Canada, they decided to disband last year. Ordinarily, experimental groups break up by going bankrupt or just imploding, but instead GI constructed The Lastmaker as a farewell to their devoted audiences.
As a meditation on the idea of last-ness, the group mashes up a bevy of source materials, including Lenny Bruce’s final routine and Scorcese’s The Last Waltz; they’ve also created a balsa-wood model of the Hagia Sophia, the Istanbul mosque that’s been demolished and rebuilt several times. On a stage nearly bare except for white tape, mics, and a few props, they do a long, fugue-like dance and speak the texts with a detached dryness. All is precise. Yet the dance moves are too predictable and the pattern too simple for the movement to achieve a transcendent monotony—GI’s shorter, wonderfully energetic dances work better.
Not even a dying performance group can resist a tiny bit of schmaltz, of course, and at the very end, a group member dressed as Saint Francis blesses the elements of GI’s theater. They’ve earned a smidge of sentimentality, certainly, but this bon voyage may not move those who haven’t seen Goat Island before—and who evidently never will again.