Saturday, December 19, 2015

Closing tomorrow: "Hildegard (vision)" at La MaMa

Multi-talented Marina Celander is the elegance central to Hildegard (vision), a curious interdisciplinary work running now through Sunday at La MaMa. Directed by Gian Marco Lo Forte with writing by Abby Felder and music by John Sully (Pioneers Go East Collective), the hour-long piece aims to offer insight into the physiological and emotional experiences of medieval German composer, scientist and mystic Hildegard von Bingen whose migraines triggered futuristic visions.

The immediacy of setting--a row of audience seats surround performers on three sides of the narrow, rectangular, brick-lined theater--provides the sensation of a dream externalized. Colors and textures feel intimate to viewers; the attractive, live green of the abbess's plants, the gleaming clear or dark amber glass of science beakers and bottles, are particularly striking visual elements. The space contains, all at once, everything it needs, collapsing the separation between one point in history and another era. We watch Hildegard, with assistant and same-sex lover Richardis von Stade, potting and tending the plants as they converse just as we clearly see centuries ahead to the commonplace of men and women side by side in their labs.

"We are vessels. We are women. How can we transcend so many barriers?" Celander asks shortly before von Stade (Nehprii Amenii) pulls out a videocam from out of somewhere and trains it on her abbess's face. The subtle interactions between these two--the dynamics of Celander's faint but detectable withdrawal, her self-containment, and Amenii's confused, quiet discomfort--drew me into the work. Regrettably, the text--in it plainness and in telling us what we likely already know--lacks the poetic vision to soar with Hildegard's celestial artistry.

Hildegard (vision) has two more performances: tonight at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm. Seating is limited. For information and tickets, click here.

La MaMa: First Floor Theatre
74a East 4th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenue), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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