Saturday, January 4, 2014

"Tyson vs. Ali" knocks out 2014 COIL opening

Scene from Reid Farrington's Tyson vs. Ali
(photo by John Hurley)
Reid Farrington and his extensive creative and technical team deliver, yes, a decisive knockout punch with the world premiere of Tyson vs. Ali. And since Farrington's COIL Festival run at 3LD Art & Technology Center has been extended to January 26, you'll have more chances to get your ringside seat.
Tyson vs. Ali is a PS 122 commission, produced by
3-Legged Dog and co-presented by PS 122 and 3-Legged Dog.

Less a conventional play about two titans of boxing, Tyson vs. Ali deftly squeezes into one hour, through extraordinary live action, video imagery, text and sound, a visceral encounter with The Boxer as looming archetype and intriguingly complex individual.

At the heart of the work's sensory dazzle are four gifted performers--Dennis A. Allen II, Roger Casey, Femi Olagoke, Jonathan Swain--through which the personalities, words, speech patterns, body language and fighting styles of Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali and others endlessly shift. In other words, no one "fighter" portrays and embodies a stable identity, and you are along for the ride.

The surrounding boxing ring (set by Simon Harding, who also created the video) is similarly fluid with continuously projected imagery, some of it massive, close-up and disturbing. It plunges us into history--through clips from famous matches or from television interviews with the champs--and yanks us back into the present as we gaze upon video images of the actor/dancers' beat-up faces, swollen eyes and bloody gashes. (Shenna Vaughn's special effects makeup is frightfully convincing.)

The various "rounds" and transitions offer, for our contemplation, considerations of boxing style and strategy, the genesis of each boxer's attraction to the sport and, the psychology of champions and, of course, issues of power, sexuality and race.

Although I've seen a few televised matches and have the typical American's awareness of boxing and its celebrities, I do not follow the sport. But you need not be a boxing fan to appreciate Tyson vs. Ali. Farrington's team has achieved a coherent and powerful beauty.

With choreography by Laura K. Nicoll, script by Frank Boudreaux, performances by Dennis A. Allen II, Roger Casey, Femi Olagoke, Jonathan Swain and Dave Shelley; sound design by Juan Aboites

Tyson vs. Ali has been extended through January 26. For complete information, including schedule details, click here. To purchase tickets, click here.

3LD Art & Technology Center
80 Greenwich Street (near Rector Street), Manhattan

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