Charles L. Mee’s Under Construction, directed by Anne Bogart and performed with vigor by the SITI Company, often feels as cluttered as an eccentric grandparent’s attic. It’s little surprise that this theatrical collage is overcrammed: It attempts to explore the ongoing evolution of our collective psyche, even as it pays homage to—and references—works by Norman Rockwell and installation artist Jason Rhoades.
This ambitious vision could make for riveting theatergoing, but instead the production carries a whiff of artistic mustiness. Too often, Mee references overly familiar targets: twee instructional films from the 1950s and Ann Bannon’s lesbian pulp fiction, in particular. And although there’s something undeniably fascinating about seeing the company assemble iconic Rockwellian images (such as a huge Thanksgiving feast) with a few boards and industrial buckets, the show’s ironic winking at the mores and artifacts of yesteryear proves tiresome.
More successful are abstracted—and less dated—sequences, particularly one in which some performers are constrained with duct tape and extension cords, while another actor reads banal platitudes from index cards. In this instance, the show really compels you to contemplate how the homilies themselves are moral and psychic restraints, and in doing so, it simply chills.