NW New Works Mainstage (Second Weekend) Jun 22, 2011

by Eric Pitsenbarger

Grandmother Mothra's Mercurial Tale


A slow rising dusky light reveals Haruko in pieced victorian lace pajamas, crouching right in front of me. Her flickering eyes in and out of focus, a wry, thin smile on porcelain moon face floats in the darkened space. Eyes stop and grasp mine and then flit off again into a state of smoke. Limbs bent and cracking into root-like angles, fingers twitching, growing, reaching she illustrates the benign / scary essence of something elemental. Sweet yet discordant strings overlapping and strummed, plucked and scratched from the on-stage ensemble complete the sense that I am also growing roots, moving through dirt, tasting wet leaves and growing moss upon my head.


Behind her the striking silhouette of an imposing dark tree; a simple representation...a cut-out, painted with vertebrae that in the wavering light creates the illusion of shifting, of subtle movement, stillness. This simple device delivers the perfect imaginative push deep into...and then terribly lost within a dark forest. I feel a beginning and an ending. Her wispy, plaintive voice-over tells us that she is: "all manner of things" and with a slight shudder I realize a sense of wonder and foreboding. I am indeed lost and grasped within the nature spirit's embrace; coaxing, inviting, yet terrifying. Having answered the invitation of beguiling fairy to play amongst their kin, a foolish mortal becoming instantly glamoured and lost forever.


As she dons a stylized red hood, traipsing through a projected forest to encounter her doppleganger, strings growl and taunt. My epiphany occurs in rediscovering the chestnut fairy tale of Red Riding Hood reinterpreted to that of confronting, challenging and vanquishing one's shadow...all accomplished by skipping and freely expressing joy. Allegory and example of how a gentle warrior effects great change with the softest of touch.


A Better Container


Backing out onto the stage through the curtain, the floppy haired woman feels about with testing arms, elbows, reaching hands and tentative feet. The veneer of fifties nostalgia in her floral dress and bouncy blond curl give a slight sense of irony; and with her groping about, of being rather lost. I can tell it's a wig she's wearing and that this is a 'costume' drama. The bony nature of human form dressed in a symbolic costume of says many things quite quickly; and then she turns around. The stylized flip of a wig is covering her entire face! A delicious, silly / scary punch line: There is no face to attach personality. We are denied the opportunity to interpret beyond what we judge in costume and halting maneuvering. With my very own, over-arcing sense of the absurd, I cannot help but project a seminal pop culture reference: It's like watching Cousin IT's glamourous sister struggle home after a bender.


Curtain opens to reveal her equally doffed, faceless floppy haired IT sisters working their way across the stage. Faceless, wiggy women; cartoon versions of themselves manipulating space, building upon the irony and the challenge. The woozy soundscape further supporting the sense of being lost within and about a slightly uncomfortable environment: our everyday lives perhaps?


As the women are eventually revealed, the wigs disappearing, I feel relief in seeing who they are and even a burst of joy in the introduction of elder Lenore and then young Ellie as they all march slowly backwards along a dramatic time line. One after the other, backwards and backwards through a still-life of memory, the shadow of the previous figure preceding, we are in a liquid, Daliesque landscape...still floating in dreamlike observation of these women as they move through gesturing, slowly changing expression. The juxtaposition of individually unique dancers and ages becoming as well, tools for expression and nuance. 


Orders of Magnitude


Our esteemed professor illustrates in quick chalk-board diagram the correlation of Big Bang science to include further interpretation of human interaction and the controlled chaos of all things. As live band bang out the lyricized, faux broadway version, a very cute couple scamper about then pick each other's clothes off...finally, sweetly canoodling right there in a block of light. More explanation, diagrams, numbers, five dollar words, blown-up songs of creation theory and the nimble couple build from scattered foam-core bones, a tilting, dangerously precariously listing Stegosaurus. Rushing to create the prop dino-puzzle, my front row partner and I grit our teeth and REACT! when bones almost...almost fold with those rushing human hands and feet nudging, quickly building (while searching for the right bones), and knocking about. The thing finally collapses in a satisfying jumble as professor, band and humans (redressed and smiling), bracket their history of creation with a soft landing. The joke is that it's true! Humans make-up stuff. We interpret and figure stuff out. It happened. It's happening right now!


I hope this dramatized version makes it to someone's high-school history-of-all-things class: teaching everyone the concept that yes, this happened...and then this happened and that yes, really, people are naked underneath all that stuff.





A pile of white paper is dropped from above the closed curtain and flutters all over. Donna comes flitting out, picks up a piece, folds it, crumpling it up, passing it between her hands and then places it in mine...looking knowingly into my eyes, then taking it back, passing it down the row. The curtain opens to reveal a landscape of stalactite paper, paper all over the floor, three giant piles of paper...paper everywhere. This piece: is about paper. Donna moves back and forth with her chosen crumpled sheet, around and around and then crawls underneath one of the huge piles...writhing about. Soon, one of the other piles starts to move about and mattisonthemove, jumps out. Spinning, writhing, leaping around all over the paper. It's great that they haven't slipped and fallen from stepping on all this paper, come crashing down. The stark difference of all the white sheets everywhere and their red velour shorts, red and brown wrapped scarves for tops is odd. More spinning and paper flying everywhere with the soundscape of ripping and crumpling. I'm watching the sweat on their brow and the stalactites sway as they spin by. No one fell down. That's good.