Is she leading us to extinction or did she find a way out? Feb 22, 2015

by Sean Ryan

The Evening by Richard Maxwell | New York City Players brings to life a world of archetypes, mere shapes, like the signs that depict men and women’s bathrooms. A world lackluster of adornment, stripped of the acting shtick. A world full of presence, musicality, awareness and commitment in the telling of the simplest story. To attain what you desire. A story that began from walking on a street in Toulouse, France seeing a man with an arm in a sling. He is a Fighter. This Fighter must have a Lover. This Lover is a woman, rather a bartender and stripper. In their world there must be a down-and-out Manager. They are outcasts, undesirables yet have each other. Where do they meet? At the bar … enter the Band. Utterances abound, “what am I?” “This isn’t a prison” “I think we got left behind, caught between two worlds ever changing.” This is the world of Richard Maxwell. A world moved by his passion of the absurd, the absurd that resides in the telling of a story in the space between … or rather, an abyss, a chasm between performer and audience. Can you meet me half way? Half way in a world full of spontaneous prose and poetry, an environment yielding to an individual’s desire, and an audience who is the arbiter of timing. Yet to achieve who exists in this world and how are they to convey the story brought up a very interesting question.

The psychology of the character

An actor is trained to reach and embody the pivotal motivations of the character’s driving action, to understand their behavior, where they were before, what is their obstacle and how are they going to achieve their goal to find their place in the world. In the world of Richard Maxwell, this importance is of no importance. From what I gather, the miens is compositional, like a band in how they play the music, how they listen, how they synthesize the notes, tonally, a-tonally, by tempo, rhythm, volume, shape, etc. (oh, hello Viewpoints) The miens may seem being devoid of ‘depth’ - superficial - yet conversely it is what establishes depth … I dare say … it is what makes it art (my mind just shifted to Jackson Pollack). The purpose is in the attending to how the words are spoken, volume of sound, articulation, where they stand, line of focus, how they stand, how each is in relationship to one another, to the environment, to the abyss. It is to trust what you are attending to. You are a shape in the world, nothing more, more or less, less is more. It is a dance of body, text and presence in the hope that the actor can experience a moment of the unexpected with the audience in the journey; the audience is not just the witness. There is synthesis. The result of paying attention to that what is happening is what communicates the behavior, the psychology of the character. The archetype is unfolded simultaneously with the audience, not presented to the audience … be with me … rather than …. see who I am?

All in all – either; both are not right or wrong, it is about choice and not denying one for the other. It is in the ability of conveying both masterfully … the yin and the yang. Can we will it to synthesize, to converge? At any rate, each is a needle in a hay stack that most of us will spend a lifetime searching for. Thank God I am not in a hurry. I give thanks to each strand of hay for giving me that brief moment of exceptionality - and that it is not the needle … because if I did find either; both … the question then is whether or not I would continue to give a fuck.


As Jerry states in Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story: Sometimes a person has to go a very long distance out of his way to come back a short distance correctly. Richard Maxwell, you are the real deal, a sure thing. A pioneer. And I cannot be remiss in giving my continuing adoration to Jim Fletcher who just continues to amaze me every time he steps on the stage at On the Boards. New York City players you have a fan for life.