nytheatre.com review by Ryan Emmons
August 13, 2010
Bagabones is "change and development, fixed forms breathing new life as perspectives alter, and a gift and receipt" according to writer/performer Jonathan Nosan. Nosan has created a performance piece that follows one man through several different phases of his life—"it is the shedding of the skin like a snake." Bagabones is a beautiful and visceral look at one man's search for where he belongs spiritually and where he fits into the physical world. Luckily Nosan is a contortionist and fits into most places without trouble.
At the heart of the show is Nosan's unbelievable ability to twist, contort, and fold his body in ways you wouldn't think possible. Like any athlete, Nosan broadens what we think the human body is capable of, and shows us that it is possible to push beyond what we believe to be the physical limits of this world. In the first segment particularly, Nolan establishes that the laws of gravity do not apply to him by sitting and writing upside-down at his desk, holding himself up with the power of his core strength and legs.
Director Chelsea Bacon uses space creatively and thoughtfully and very clearly creates different spaces within which each phase of Nosan's character's life can exist. Bacon and sound/lighting designer Jennifer Stimple use some handheld lighting equipment to dramatize the fluidity of the piece and set designers Alex Locadia and Peter Jevremov have developed an incredible box set piece that is as flexible as Nosan (and extremely sturdy). Together, this creative team creates a cohesive and spiritual world that is ever changing and brings us in and out of personal and public space. The constant connections between the physical and the spiritual plane are very well executed, particularly by Stimple's sound design, which adds constant dimension to the actual sounds happening on stage. Even the choice to hear a typewriter while we looked at our programs (which were printed in a typewriter font) had me questioning time and the way it operated in the theatre.
Nosan is a strong performer with exquisite body control. He has created a vibrant piece of theatre that is violent, daring, spiritual, and unconventional. Bagabones is the most Artaudian piece of theatre I have ever seen in a Fringe festival. If you have an interest in the "Theatre of Cruelty," then Bagabones is not to be missed.
The show only slackens within the transitions between the phases of this character's life, with the tension and the build literally coming to a standstill to create enough time for the actors to set up. With a sound designer as talented as Stimple and a director as sharp as Bacon, I know these moments of transition can be activated and tightened and what the audience would be left with is a powerful show about the artistic process and the dichotomy between group space and individual space and the danger of madness as a person tries to figure it all out. At the end, it seems there is only one place that links the physical and the spiritual where individual space is finally achieved...but you'll have to go see it to find out.