02 August 2008

Play; Dance; Uncategorizable Installation Thing; Book

Animals Out of Paper I've read some of Rajiv Joseph's plays before, and liked some and loved others. I think this play is in the like category - his dialogue is bright and wonderful (it reminds me of Itamar Moses' in tone a little), but the shape of the play felt a little easy. Still compelling, entertaining, and moving. Total balls-to-the-wall brilliant performances from Jeremy Shamos and Utkarsh Ambudkar. (Bonus genius points to whoever had Jeremy Shamos wear a calculator watch.) Also, at intermission, I made an origami boat.

Battleworks Dance I am an idiot and don't know how to read and showed up at 7:45 for an 8pm curtain that was actually at 7:30. Brilliant. So I missed most of the first piece, which apparently included a lot of falling. As does a lot of the Battleworks choreography, a trick that doesn't lose impact no matter how many times a dancer seems to fall plank-like to the floor, crash boom. The choreography was a mixed bag - none of the lyricism that, in my ignorance, I usually enjoy most in modern dance, but the last piece, a premiere that Allison called "The Cossack Dance" for the costumes, was fast and energetic and moving and really, really engaging.

Playing the Building This is a gorgeous strange quiet thing, part installation, part hands-on exhibit, part excuse to go to a beautifully run-down building in lower Manhattan. I went on a Friday afternoon, so it wasn't too packed - me and Isaac, a few grownups, and a few more grownups with a couple of hyperactive little kids. The space and sounds are beautiful, but it was still a surprisingly powerful (and changeable) experience. Allow me to quote myself from a gchat conversation:

at first it was surprisingly intensely somber. the sound was sporadic, and the space was quiet and strange and beautiful. [I know about three adjectives, no? -Ed.] walking around the far half of the room with the sound all around me, it was very... powerful's the wrong word, but it was... i felt like i was surrounded with it, in a weird way. the sound, the space, the light, the quiet. and it wasn't like any other art or music or beautiful disused building space.
and then when we were walking around chatting, and watching the kids, it was just delightful.
and it was interesting that it went from this sort of somber, quiet, introspective thing to two little boys roughhousing, but it was all part of the same experience.
i loved that the space and the project could create and hold those seemingly exclusive feelings.
So there's that. It was very awesome, and I strongly recommend it.

Palestine Yes, I read this, like, seventeen years ago, but I don't want to not mention it. I wasn't raised in a religious home, but I went to Hebrew Day School for K-6, and my Stepfather's Israeli, and until a few weeks ago it really seemed like Israel was my grandfather's #1 issue for this fall's election... but even with all that I thought I'd de-indoctrinated myself pretty thoroughly. I've long held the (un)position on Israel & Palestine that it's a supremely fucked up and complicated situation that I can't even begin to take a side on. And yet. I'd never really thought about how intensely Zionist my elementary school was until reading this book. Little things, like the idea that before the Jews came, Palestine was a barren desert. That there aren't really Palestinians, just Arabs who live there. It's not that I believed these things, but I never really thought about them after starting public school and leaving all that behind.

So, this book. I think the term Joe Sacco uses for what he does is Comics Journalism - comic book/graphic novel form, journalism/documentary content. And it's amazing. It took me a little while to get used to his almost grotesque drawing style, but not too long, and his storytelling is powerful. There's a genius simplicity to it: he came to Palestine pretty naive, and his stories are colored by his ignorance. Sacco never shies away from his own fear or repulsion at what he's learning. The character of Joe Sacco is always present - interviewing Palestinians, taking in the towns and refugee camps, finding a cab or taking a longed-for shower, and we go along with him discovering what he discovers. Almost everything is anecdotal, so even assuming Joe Sacco for an entirely factual reporter (not that he doesn't seem to be), there's no way to know what's tweaked here or exaggerated there by his interview subjects. Even still, even taking room for that all into account, I wish I could press this book into the hands of, oh, every relative I have. Not to say that one side is right or wrong, but that this is a side they tend to discount, of brutality and oppression and, yes, I know, this isn't exactly news, but it's so seldom seen or heard, and to be seen in this form, from this brilliant book, is more than just Oh, yes, there's brutality all around, it's really a complicated and awful situation, tsk tsk, but is a real, vital punch in the gut.

1 comment:

Allison said...

Ok, for starters, I called it "The Plight of the Cossacks."

For another, it was more than the costumes... they did use motifs from traditional Russian dance (remember the men dancing in "Fiddler"?) in really fun ways. It felt like a danced theme in variations. The theme was the plight of the cossack throughout history.

Poor dancing cossack.

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