Thursday, October 29, 2015

BAM Next Wave presents NYC premiere of "The Exalted"

Carl Hancock Rux (l) and Theo Beckmann
in costume for The Exalted
(photo: John Labbe)

I might have drawn closer to The Exalted--or, at least, felt a better grasp of its purpose--had writer/teller Carl Hancock Rux delivered his words with a consistent clarity to match their earnestness. I found myself often straining to follow text stuffed with historical and biographical data, distracted from other elements of the collaborative piece--strangely enough, Onome Ekeh's trippy and quite showy video. I started off wishing that Rux could speak without being hemmed in by music but quickly realized that the problem was not the impingement by Theo Bleckmann's sound design but Rux's vocal and narrative cloudiness. Bleckmann's ethereal melodies and supple voice, in fact, handsomely served this multimedia fantasy throughout its hour.

Bleckmann, as performer, contributes an understated elegance, wafting in and out of Rux's awareness like a shade. He portrays the influential German-Jewish art historian and critic Carl Einstein, noted for his scholarship on African sculpture and Cubism, leftist ideology and engagement in the Spanish Civil War. Trapped in Nazi-occupied France in 1940, Einstein committed suicide. Rux's interest in the writer appears to have roots in his own history--an adoptive father who served in World War II, a revelation, through genealogical research, of a link to Germany, and perhaps more.

Under the direction of SITI Company's Anne BogartThe Exalted gracefully incorporates physical theater--characteristic movement and articulate gestures through which the men initiate a playful understanding of each other. But in a telling scene, Rux stands stock still, mid-space, warily gazing at Bleckmann as he skirts around him, lecturing on how Europeans devalue African art. In this encounter--and, perhaps, in this work--so much remains to be unpacked and examined.

With lighting by Brian H Scott and scenic and costume design by Maureen Freedman

The Exalted continues its run tonight through October 31 with performances at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

BAM Fisher/Fishman Space
321 Ashland Place, Brooklyn

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