By Bob Shuman
Panorama, a burning expression of lives disassociated from the American overculture, is playing at the Downstairs at La MaMa, as part of the Public’s Under The Radar Festival, until January 21. Using audition tapes, from the Great Jones Repertory Company, to introduce six live actors (as well as ten on video), who identify or resonate with the immigrant experience—the cast contends with American oppression in forms such as inequality and racism. Motus, the Italian theatre company, which devised and directed the work, under Enrico Casagrande and Daniela Nicolò, with dramaturgy by Erik Ehn and Daniela Nicolò, has based its interviews and discussions on 40 questions, such as “Have you ever had to start your life over?”; What is your strongest understanding of the term ‘far away’, based on your experience?”; “When have you been welcomed by a stranger?” and when were you lost . . . and found?” The multicultural cast, who physicalize the results include Maura Nguyen Donohue, John Gutierrez, Valois Mickens, eugene the poogene, Perry Yung, and Zishan Ugurlu, who can be intentionally blurred, in the play between video and stage action, as if a Psychology experiment is being conducted, where the color blue is called red. The creators are using the technique to give expression to human, as opposed to individual, experience in the work, which is ferociously timely, given that Trump is seeking negotiation of his “bill of love,” regarding DACA, U.S. border security, family-based “chain migration,” and the visa lottery program.
Fluidity is salient in terms of the play’s views on national identity and borders, but not on Capitalism, anathema to the collective. None of the creators get around to saying how they might actually build businesses or make the economic situation better on their own, but Motus, as a touchstone of contemporary truth-telling, is ferocious and unflinching. Examples, beyond politics, would include use of frontal nudity of both sexes (without being exploitive), and even the use of drugs. Yet, the directors are able to counter controversial, perhaps shocking, stage elements by, for example, showing Donohue’s orgasm as she gets ready to eat Cheez Doodles (which may remind of Tina Turner’s Acid Queen) or recreating a ridiculously smoky world of crystal meth. Most piercing is Mickens’s close-up reaction to sexual harassment (the technical designs are by Sangmin Chae & Billy Clark, Seoungho Jeong, Bosul Kim, Varie Vazquez, and Youngsun Lim).
The effective script may remind of the stories told by the dancers in A Chorus Line or the schoolchildren in The Me Nobody Knows. Because an Aristotelian plot is not key in the show, the similarity in using monologues and question-and-answer formatting is aided by the virtually continuous pacing of Heather Paauwe’s nonintrusive music (Chorus Line also used a score that rarely stopped). This bold evening, which uses minimal props and tight, specific, often solitary physical action, such as doing the Moonwalk or blowing up a balloon, does move nomadically, even if, ultimately, the artists yearn for a place to call home. Where they find that is not so much in a country, which has offered aid—and is expected to supply more—but, rather, in the theatre, poor and ephemeral.
© 2018 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved. Photos: Perry Yung, Valois Mickens, and eugene the poogene by Theo Cote.
Devised and Directed by
Enrico Casagrande and Daniela Nicolò
Dramaturgy by Erik Ehn and Daniela Nicolò
With the actors of the Great Jones Repertory Company
CAST & CREATIVE TEAM
Maura Nguyen Donohue, John Gutierrez, Valois Mickens, Eugene the Poogene, Perry Yung & Zishan Ugurlu
Assistant Director: Lola Giouse
Music: Heather Paauwe
Set Design: Seung Ho Yeong
Visual Design: Bosul Kim
Video Design: CultureHub with Sangmin Chae
Technical Direction: Yarie Vazquez
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