nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
September 12, 2008
Anger/Nation takes the views of two very different people—Kenneth Anger, an occultist filmmaker, and Carrie Nation, a prohibitionist saloon smasher—and goes a bit further than mere juxtaposition. The performance is more like a mashup of their attitudes and actions. However, it seems to lean a bit more toward the side of Anger than Nation.
When you walk in to the space there is a lot of action already going on. Three guys, one dressed as a Roman centurion, one in lederhosen and another in a dirndl, are handing out beers in tall plastic steins. They all have mud caked on them from the knees down. They shout at us to "get this party started" and quote the Butthole Surfers' line "there's a time to shit and a time for God / the last shit I took was really fuckin' odd!"
There are more than a dozen 20-foot-long PVC pipes that arch, tentacle-like, over the stage each having a small video screen at its end. They use fishing sinkers of various weights to bend the pipes so they hang at different heights. There are two long narrow screens along the back of the stage and below them is a cluttered graveyard of Post-it notes. A row of red lights in jars that have bubbling water in them is just below the Post-its. There is a long staircase that juts upstage to a small platform. A cutout of a shimmering full moon hovers just over stage right. The performance area is long and narrow with microphones and tons of other electronic equipment lining the entire area. The sound system kicks out some seriously reverberating noisy, arty rock. My seat was vibrating through most of the performance.
The show opens with Nation, brilliantly played by Maggie Hoffman, slowly descending the stairs and ritualistically sprinkling glitter on a metal beer bottle before it is placed on a stump and cleaved in two with a hatchet. On the mic, she tells part of her story in a very nonchalant style using words like "castration" and "liquor nuisance" over and over again. The other actors, Eric Dyer, Iver Findlay, and Scott Halvorsen Gillette, then perform the Radiohole Manifesto, spewing lines such as "we create our own new realities" and "history will not look kindly on us," then they return to the subject at hand.
At one point, two performers take turns bending over to receive shot from a pellet gun and then they lip synch an evil, clownish laugh. Hoffman's face is projected on the full moon as she provides some added background visuals and sound to the scene. The video screens switch footage with every scene change and the music is always warm, trippy, and buzzing on your forehead. The story isn't entirely intelligible but this is performance art so that really wasn't a problem for me. The overall experience is quite extraordinary—certainly among one of the most extraordinary I've have in the theatre.
The best part about Radiohole's take on performance art is that they never take themselves too seriously and so the performance never becomes pretentious or persuasive. It is a twisted techno-circus with far-out dialogue. The show definitely has a beginning, middle, and end, but Radiohole is anti-story and anti-climax. So much so that at the very end, the lights go down, the house and work lights come up, the music and video stops and two performers leave while the remaining two (one doing most of the talking) prattles on and on painfully slowly about nothing, making us feel trapped and unable to leave. I thought that they would keep going until the audience finally decides that nothing was going to happen and leaves a la Andy Kaufman reading The Great Gatsby to an audience eager for his comedy. It is so anti-climactic and I loved it (well at least upon reflection).
I had the best time at this show. It is a little bit more like a Kenneth Anger film than the acts of Carrie Nation but I think that really works for this show because Radiohole's drunken performance art style is bold and inventive enough to carry the night no matter what their subject may be.