Morning to be Changed from the Morning to the Morning or Belly of the Whale
nytheatre.com review by Lillian Meredith
August 9, 2013
A scene from Morning to be Changed from the Morning to the Morning or Belly of the Whale
The game young creators of Morning to be Changed from the Morning to the Morning, or the Belly of the Whale: A Portrait in 24 hours or 25 frames have made a piece of theater. Unfortunately, I have almost no idea what it was actually about. Based on the title, the program notes, and a post-show conversation with fellow theater-goers, I can surmise that it chronicles the progression of a day and a night in what may or may not be a womb. The characters, dressed in white dresses with black stockings wrapped around their heads, may or may not be sperm. Or eggs. Or figments of my imagination. There are calls made on an old rotary phone to an unseen mother, questions of gender and cultural identity, and abstract dance sequences. I think. I can’t be entirely sure.
In the end, The Million Underscores (as the fledgling company is called) have created a show that might seem innovative, unless you have even a passing knowledge of the last forty years of avant-garde theater. The piece is more of a recycled version of a Richard Foreman play than anything else, something I would have picked up on even if I hadn’t noticed that both the sound designer and the director have recently worked on pieces with Ontological-Hysteric.
This isn’t a problem in and of itself; young artists have always learned through imitation. The real issue with the piece is exemplified in the fact that the three actresses were bra-less and of course, inevitably, took off their clinging slips in a (admittedly mesmerizing) totally unnecessary moment of exhibition. This sounds like a small, personal quibble, but it brings up a larger, more problematic point, which is: why? Why was that choice made? Call me old-fashioned, but I believe you have to think long and hard about why you are asking young actresses to expose themselves, especially if you are a male director. And this moment was just the pinnacle of a series of moments that seemed to be done for no other reason than provocation, with the pure purpose of saying “look! look how avant-garde we all are!” And that is the only message I ultimately walked away with.
But this is a young company, and there is no reason to think that they can’t grow into a group with a more mature, more unique voice that speaks to a wider audience than their classmates from the Experimental Theatre Wing at NYU. There were multiple lovely stage pictures, and a rather marvelous revelation of space to end the piece, that I think speaks to an exciting future. I only hope that next time they’ll all have a clearer idea of what exactly they’re trying to accomplish, which will, in turn, give the audience more of a stake in the narrative, whatever it may be.