Walter Gropius, modern architect and leader of the multi-arts Bauhaus School, once described Bauhaus theater as the process of “placing in physical evidence a supersensuous idea.” In bauhaus the bauhaus, the Nerve Tank theater ensemble celebrates the 90th anniversary of the school’s founding by trying to work this materializing magic on the Bauhaus itself—its philosophy and its practices, its history and its afterlife.
Through a series of vignettes, games, gestural dances, and found texts, writer-assembler Chance Muehleck primes his ensemble to speak in the breathless tones of early-20th-century utopianism. Gropius returns from the dead to sermonize on the theme of artist as exalted craftsman, and the ensemble, dressed like toy figurines, herky-jerk their way across the stage in a tribute to Oskar Schlemmer’s definitive Bauhaus work, the Triadiac Ballet. Meanwhile, Andy Warhol and the Ikea catalog, two modern-day mediums of the Bauhaus message, wax rhapsodic over mass production.
For a work premised on such vast interconnections, though, it feels oddly small in performance—sub-, not super-sensuous. Neither the script nor the cast has the requisite energy, and in a fragmentary play of ideas—one mounted in the dwarfingly cavernous Brooklyn Lyceum—lack of energy is lack of arc, and lack of arc is fatal.