nytheatre.com review by Andre Lancaster
December 10, 2009
Quickly: name one thing or image that will immediately conjure memory of childhood. And don't cheat.
In Terrible Things, OCD-arranged rows of marshmallows greet the audience upon entering the experimental dance space at P.S. 122. Will the marshmallows remain perfectly placed through out the entire piece? Is somebody going to eat them all? Who put them down there anyway? A stagehand? One of the performers? Or was it Katie?
In this wonderful, new piece created by Lisa D'Amour and Katie Pearl with Emily Johnson, Katie Pearl's breakup with a girlfriend becomes a site to explore trauma, memory, and the origins of the creative. The work starts off with Katie retelling a story of a breakup while three female dancers costumed in red sweep up the marshmallows from the floor with their bodies. As the performance continues, we hear more of Katie's breakup stories and we, with Katie as our poor Sisyphean guide, mine deeper and deeper into her past.
Pearl and D'Amour are a collaborative team known for their inventive work with text, image, physicality, and architectural elements. And that's not just press kit talk, folks. You've got to see their stage invention live. A favorite moment for me was the entrance of two male wrestlers carrying a boom-box playing Rage Against The Machine who proceeded to wrestle each other and would later take turns squabbling with Katie. Up until this point there was not any visible male presence on stage, yet I felt that there was male energy within Katie's memory, spirit, and body all along. Part of her struggle was to come to grips with this and stop fighting gender's fluidity.
Anna Kirlay's set design performs a smart role of thinking about how memory performs trickster roles. Olivera Gajic's costume design is equally inventive. James Garver's sound design and Emily Johnson's choreography both rock: loved the boom-box moment. And Lenore Doxsee holds it down with the lights.
All in all this is an adventurous night of experimental performance and being all up in Katie's business. In a world where the objective too often rules the day, Terrible Things' investigation of the subjective is refreshing.
Marshmallows, yes, yes, yes!