Jan Fabre Burns New Jersey


Pyromaniacs, rejoice! Flemish theatrical auteur Jan Fabre’s latest extravaganza, Prometheus—Landscape II, now playing at Montclair State, is a collection of conflagrations to satisfy any fire enthusiast’s fancy. This exhilaratingly athletic—and occasionally goofy—romp through Promethean myth unfolds amid the roar of flames, with actors brandishing blowtorches and enormous fire extinguishers. (Don’t worry, they also point out the theater’s emergency exits.)

In the Greek story, Prometheus brings mortals life-sustaining fire—then endures eternal punishment (chains, cliff, carnivorous eagles), courtesy of Zeus. A succession of mythological kibitzers and fellow-sufferers parades by his rocky prison, commiserating and condemning by turns.

Fabre’s Prometheus hangs suspended, limbs splayed, glowering with immortal superiority as a colossal sun blazes onscreen. In this reimagining, the martyr’s gift to humanity is carnal knowledge. The ensemble intones combustion-obsessed love songs—“I’m on Fire,” “Light My Fire”—and one actor tries igniting sparks by rubbing a stick between his fellow performer’s thighs. In a mesmerizing sequence, company members strike matches on their underwear, then extinguish them in their mouths.

Some elements of Fabre’s eclectic concoction are perplexing—a fleeting Hitler reference, a Hare Krishna number. And his prelude’s thoughtful meditations on society’s need for heroes rarely reappear. But Fabre’s forceful imagery, and his company’s titanic feats of endurance, are worth the epic trek to New Jersey.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 19, 2011

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