Sunday, May 6, 2012

Zuštiak's "Strange Cargo"

Sitting in the darkened, looming Synod House--a side building of the world's largest cathedral, St. John the Divine, rarely opened to the public--you're left with the bluish glow from narrow, distant stained-glass windows. The blue emits a vague comfort, but the lead strips crossing, connecting, restraining the blue snatches that meager comfort away. You shrink back, feeling small, a bit threatened. A man creeps across the floor on his knees, passes a table, pivots, hesitates, gingerly touches the heel of one hand to the floor before skittering around. Other people creep in, one by one, building into a quintet of loners who make actions and sounds of motorized, robotic toys or figures from violent video games. Don't look for the remote control; there is none--and no controller--in sight. There is no God. Only the body and the impossibility of two or more bodies occupying the same space at the same time. And, as we will see, the inevitability of trouble.

Pavel Zuštiak/Palissimo concludes Zuštiak's Painted Bird Trilogy with Strange Cargo--a interdisciplinary production presented by the currently, and interestingly, nomadic Performance Space 122. (The entire trilogy will play out, in September, at Ohio's Wexner Center for the Arts.) Those who have followed this journey, from La MaMa (Bastard, 2010) to Baryshnikov Arts Center (Amidst, 2011) to this ecclesiastical assembly hall, might agree with me that what unfolds here now bumps the dark intensity up several notches and calls up the most grueling and risk-taking performances from its extraordinary crew. At one point, sweat pours down dancer Jeremy Xido's face, but Zuštiak sweats not only body but mind and soul, too.

Aside from Xido and his quietly-menaced prey Luke Murphy, Strange Cargo boasts astonishing work from Lindsey Dietz-Marchant (the most memorable presence in Amidst), Giulia Carotenuto and Denisa Musilova. The rest of Zuštiak's team of collaborators are also tight, and they once again include Joe Levasseur (innovative lighting techniques) and Christian Frederickson and Ryan Rumery (superb original music, performed live). You must see this one.

Strange Cargo continues at Synod House through May 13: Thursday and Sunday at 8pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and 9:30pm. Space is limited, and there will be no late seating. For program and ticket information, click here.

Synod House
Cathedral of St. John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Avenue at West 110th Street, Manhattan
(map and directions)

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