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Target Margin’s Stein Lab: Would She Like It If We Told Her?

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When Gertrude Stein opined that a writer should write with his eyes, she wasn’t giving advice to playwrights, but she opened the door to more stage adaptations of her work than even she could have hoped for. Still, her gnomic oeuvre stubbornly resists being contained within the narrative packaging that theater favors. Undaunted, Target Margin Theater takes up the gauntlet in its three-part series, The TMT Stein Lab: When this you see remember me. As the title suggests, experimentation is encouraged and success hinges on many variables.

The two works that form the series’ middle section — “Act Second,” on view through January 31 — attempt contrasting approaches. Adam R. Burnett’s “Erik Satie/If I Told Him/Erik Satie” preserves Stein’s opacity by combining disparate texts with New York–based artist Alejandro Guzman’s wooden sculptures, which materialize — without attempting to rationalize — her use of language as building blocks. Why? As Stein would have answered, “For this is so. Because.”

In contrast, Megan Hill’s “A Nice Story, or We Get It, Gertrude” frames three more-
accessible pieces as a tongue-in-cheek conference/pantomime that endeavors to reveal Stein’s uncanny anticipation of our media- and consumer-driven societies in the information age. Given a choice between abstraction and naturalism, audiences usually prefer the latter, and this one did.

But to paraphrase the mother of modernism, would she like it if we told her? Does
“exact resemblance to exact resemblance” convey her intentions? Stein Lab is one
experiment in which caution is best thrown to the wind.

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