nytheatre.com review by Julia Lee Barclay
August 15, 2012
Pare is performed and written by Robin Neveu Brown (who also directed and choreographed) and Kevin Brown, who are married. This dance-theater piece started and ended with a barefoot woman in a white gauzy dress and a man fully dressed and booted, I waited for the stereotypes of Man and Woman that each were portraying to change. I thought since it is 2012 and not 1955 that surely there would be something to indicate that a situation in which (a) the man does all the talking while the woman stands looking at him sadly, (b) the man begins by pushing away and then petting and ends by slapping, hitting and then petting (and undressing) the woman, who (c) no matter what happens to her, including him stepping on her while giving another endless monologue about his sad childhood, keeps wafting back to the man…that at some point this would be shown to be somehow problematic. But no. By the end, the Man is hitting the woman who is screaming no, they walk away from each other and then she wafts back to kiss him – again. At the very end there is a projection of the Woman taking off her clothes and walking into the ocean.
Because I was so surprised by the seemingly romanticized abusive situation here, which while watching it felt like an hour long conversation with a friend who keeps returning to an abusive relationship, I read the interviews with the artists on nytheatre.com in hopes of figuring out what they thought they were doing.
The best thing I could discern from Kevin Brown’s interview was that he hopes the audience will see the problem with keeping control and power and that it’s better to let go of control. However, what is portrayed on stage is a man in control and raging and a woman who keeps coming back for more. There is no indication that He will or can change. Robin Neveu Brown’s Woman is meant to represent fluidity and resilience, but unless you believe resilience and fluidity includes returning to physical abuse, then I’m not sure this holds up.
Robin Neveu Brown says that their marriage is not this volatile and broken in her interview, which I was relieved to read, because the way it is presented appears to be autobiography. So much so that I ended up feeling, as an audience member, complicit in abuse, especially by the time she is being hit. If I had not been reviewing the piece, I would have left the theater. If the Browns want to examine the troublesome nature of the dynamics portrayed, they need to take more care. Right now, Pare shows a woman whose only response to violence is to continue to return to her abuser. This is an age-old story of course, but to appear to romanticize this dynamic is deeply problematic.