"Three Characters in Search of Jell-O Shots" – The Evening at the Walker Art Center Feb 13, 2015

by Erin

Jay Gabler at gives his views on the opening of The Evening at the Walker Art Center. Please note that this show is a fluid work and the OtB version may differ from the Walker version:

Like 2001, you can experience this show in any of a number of different ways. You can just sit back and let it wash over you, and let your thoughts and emotions go where they will. Alternately, you can think about the show more concretely as a creation of a specific group of artists at a specific time—in which case it helps to read Maxwell’s long interview with Sarah Benson, in which Maxwell explains, for example, that the section involving his father was added after the process of creating the show was already underway. “His dying came at a time when I should have been really working on figuring out what this show is, and it didn’t make sense for me to shut that out.”

Maxwell and Benson make much about these characters as archetypes (they discuss the love triangle as “a strong geometric shape,” which Maxwell says would become “a spin” if it alternately involved two women and one man), but the actors’ characterizations are so strong that the central section becomes a tug-of-war between Maxwell’s abstracting impulse and the competing impulse to add detail, to locate these characters in place and time. My favorite moment from the show, for example, involves the fact that the lager-swilling Cosmo likes to order Jell-O shot chasers—but only for the men. “Beer, beer, beer, Jell-O, Jell-O,” he barks, ordering a round for the house.

The Evening perfectly encapsulates the appeal and challenge of the shows that curator Philip Bither selects for each year’s Out There series: it’s vastly more interesting than the tidy meta-narrative of, say, the Guthrie’s Cocktail Hour, but it’s also unafraid to take you to a new frontier and leave you there to fend for yourself.

Cosmo understands the impulse to seek new horizons. When Beatrice professes her desire to get out of town, to escape, Cosmo leans over the bar and whispers to her that he understands what kind of place in the world she’s looking for. “It’s where I am,” he rasps, “when I get really, really high.”

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