Charles Mee Texts Witness Relocation


Charles Mee is probably the only American playwright with his own iPhone app making his plays instantly available to anyone who wants to stage them. Mee, in turn, culls his own collages of texts from multiple literary and pop sources. Heaven on Earth, his new piece, samples history extensively. Each fragment touches, loosely, on people who find happiness despite a world ending around them—from Roman ruins to 1930s Dust Bowl and beyond. Sentimentality oozes from these scattershot musings (on the importance of love, for instance), calling for some serious dissonance from anyone devising a stage event from all this apocalyptic cheer. That challenge falls to the promising dance-theater group Witness Relocation and their French co-creators Ildi! Eldi.

Alas, the ensemble, directed by Dan Safer, surrenders to the banal script rather than playing against it. Their irony deficiency results in a disappointingly familiar postmodern pastiche—think barefoot people in vintage eveningwear discoursing vacuously on the simple pleasures. When aggressive music disrupts such scenes, however, Safer gains traction: His choreographed sequences feel more anarchic and unpredictable—making me wonder if this appealing company might have fared better making their own apocalypse from scratch rather than using ones from Mee’s kit.

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