Unlike the folks doing this work, I am old enough to have seen and worked around Experimental Theatre back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Inevitable components included earnest monologues on how we need to come together, interpretive dance, and sounds and music made from unusual items and innovative instruments. Turtleneck shirts were optional but recommended.
The work “Jack of Cups” by Experimental Bitch Presents (EBP) at the Flea Theatre downtown has all those elements, except for the turtleneck. It’s as if they found a VCR in their grandparent’s attic with that weird workshop tape they did while in college. I am not trying to disparage the earnest artists at work but it is truly a decades old aesthetic brought back to life. Stay around long enough and everything will come back into fashion.
Written and performed by Gabriel Rodriguez, the centerpiece is a Noah-esque story where a great wave and flood destroys the world except for the denizens who magically create ships from items that spark joy in their life. They assemble many people and animals (more than the stingy pairs and single family you may have heard of) and float fitfully until land is sighted They settle on Higher Ground which becomes a holy place for them that they revisit each year to tell tales. There is a brief uneasiness with rich survivors but after their children play with others and their water filtration technologies are shared with all, everything is hunky-dory. So much for any conflict to enter the story.
Kayla Yee plays many roles and phenomenon through interpretive dance and expresses innocence and waves and water droplets and other parts of the story through the entire performance. Lukas Papenfusscline designed the original music and accompanies the performers with bowels of water, crumpled foil, and other expressive instrumentation.
Everyone working on this production performs hard and earnestly. But the pretentious poetics and dated trappings are soft edged weapons to present their eco-message. If you ever wondered what I was doing in my turtleneck back in 1979, you can pretty much see it here as it was never videotaped. This is worth seeing to view a long forgotten cultural touchstone brought faithfully back to life.
#ATOBTTR update – oh, my poor beloved Cincinnati Reds. You lost the Nationals Series and are worse off than before. You have another day off today and ship off to play the Cardinals. I’m worried now and need you to buck me up. Go on a winning streak before it is too late. Go Reds!