nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
June 15, 2007
On the night I saw And, Marcus Young's beautiful new performance piece, I made my stage debut at the Flea Theater. So did everyone else in the audience, for that matter. That's the kind of show And is. At its simplest level, And engages in full-on audience participation. But, Young's exquisite study of the nature of performance itself is also much, much more.
The show starts simply enough with Young entering a bare stage, standing before us, and touching his nose. After a moment, he asks the audience to please touch their noses. Thus begins a series of such requests, as Young and the audience touch their mouths, nipples, knees, and ponder the floorboards, the wall, and the power cords.
Then, he says, "Watch this space while I sit with you." And he takes a seat in the audience while we ponder the space.
After that, he pulls one person on stage, then a second. After they stand together for a moment, Young turns to the audience and says, "Please; let's watch," and sits in the audience again as we take in the two new stars of the show. Then, Young is off to get them some chairs: "Please continue. I'll be back."
From there, Young slowly lures the audience on stage one by one. Actually, I shouldn't say "lures," since the crowd at the performance I attended was all too willing to get up there (myself included). Young starts whispering secret messages to each of us (none of which I will divulge here), and pretty soon And is happening all over the theatre: on stage, in the audience, everywhere. I won't spoil what happens next, but I can tell you this much: I have never seen anything like And, and I guarantee you haven't either.
In one sense, Young takes the words of Peter Brook very much to heart: all he needs to make a piece of theatre is an empty space, a chair or two, and someone to watch it. But, he challenges the idea of what a performance is by getting the audience so heavily involved. Is he the show, or are we? Is the show happening on stage or in the stands? That depends on your perspective, and also on how much of the audience is on stage by the time you ask yourself that question.
And is taken to another level by Young's otherworldly presence. Seeming to glide on air throughout, he calmly pushes the aesthetic and thematic envelopes with commanding ease and authority. Like And itself, Young is completely unpredictable: the audience has no idea what he'll do next, but knows it's in good hands. His confident control makes everyone feel safe and at ease.
It also transforms And into the theatrical equivalent of meditation or a yoga class. As Young guides the audience on contemplations of a glass of water, the moon in the sky, or some other faraway place, viewers may find themselves pondering the meaning of And itself (I know I did). Like meditation or yoga, one will ultimately get out of this show whatever they want or need (or what they put into it). What I got out of it was the larger sense of how big a part the audience plays in the performance of any given show: their engagement is crucial to its success or failure. Also, that there is no real difference between actor and audience. One is just as interesting to watch as the other. We are all special, while simultaneously none of us is special. Just equal.
And is a unique happening that makes time stand still. I'm not even going to tell you how long the show actually is. It feels like it could be 15 minutes or two hours. Or somewhere in between. Or neither. Go see for yourself.