There’s often a fine line between eclecticism and chaos, and the company Witness Relocation appears all too happy to cross it. Their current production, The Blue Bird, is an interpretation of a play that’s an adaptation of an anime series that’s an adaptation of Maeterlinck’s 1908 play. The troupe’s aesthetic, by their own (accurate) description, “includes aspects of installation art, live video, task-based performance, timed activities, competition, and improvisation of all sorts.”
In the right hands, the result of all those ingredients might make bouillabaisse; here, it’s as if someone had thrown chocolate pudding, Tabasco, and pickles into the blender and expected you to taste the concoction—while the blender was still running. How much of this is the fault of the text (by Japanese choreographer Mikuni Yanaihara, translated by Aya Ogawa and Kameron Steele) is impossible to say. Maeterlinck’s original is a symbolist fairy tale concerning two children’s search for the bluebird of happiness. The current version has something to do with scientists looking for endangered animals in the forest, but the information comes to us in two-minute stretches punctuated by loud theater games and very sloppy dance routines. Meanwhile, portions of movies like Godzilla, Titanic, and A Perfect Storm are projected onto the back wall. I found myself watching these as a respite from the live production—the predicament of the theater in microcosm.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 14, 2009