Theater archives

The Fission in Atomic City Ain’t Too Explosive


Atomic City features a veteran of Cirque du Soleil and Fuerzabruta as co-creator, and its development process included a residency at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center, so it’s no huge surprise that the piece is at once visually breathtaking and, frankly, a little scatterbrained. Purporting to meditate on Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a Manhattan Project base, Atomic City uses music, dance, and fragmentary musings on quantum mechanics to lay out some undeniable theses: Love is nice, but it leads to conflict; nuclear weapons are scary; pecan pie is delicious. The piece begins auspiciously with a genuine coup de théâtre. Led into an Astroturfed space boxed off with cloth walls, the audience mills about until successive blackouts drop into our midst a charged, spastic dance solo and a trio of musicians playing a haunting melody. But once we’re seated, the piece settles into an all-too-familiar litany of physical improvisations and obscure verbal exchanges, suffused with a dismally affirmative whimsy, like being trapped in a Devendra Banhart video. While the performers are astonishingly agile, and some of the evocative dance solos and duets end far too quickly, Atomic City is decidedly less than the sum of its particles.