Friday, January 11, 2013

It's alive!!! Radiohole at The Kitchen

I'm so mind-spun by all the APAP-connected presentations and confused by PS 122's peripatetic condition of late, that I ran a small risk of ending up at Baryshnikov Arts Center last night instead of The Kitchen where, for PS 122's COIL festival, the experimental, interdisciplinary theater troupe Radiohole (Erin Douglass, Eric Dyer and Maggie Hoffman) put on their Inflatable Frankenstein show in front of a hip and actually rather cool (not in a good way) audience. I'd had "The Kitchen" in my head, rightly, but had written "Baryshnikov Arts Center" on the dry erase board that helps keep me organized and my wife informed, and it was only until I was preparing to leave for the show that I realized that I'd been glancing at the exactly wrong thing all day, and the mistake just hadn't registered. I go to BAC tonight to see Emily Johnson!

Never having seen the legendary Radiohole--okay, relax: dance shows keep me a little busy--I'm unable to guess how high Inflatable Frankenstein would rank in their repertory, but the audacity of the hour-long show's elaborate design and execution impresses and tickles me. Hey, kids, let's "liberate Frankenstein from the long shadow of Boris Karloff!" Let's blow up Mary Shelley (literally and in more ways than one)! Go!

The troupe has littered Kitchen's performance space with everything from hi-tech whiz-bang to lo-tech aluminum mixing bowls filled with a pinkish substance like a particularly runny Silly Putty. In the recesses behind the central action, there's a whole big jumble of colorless...something (to be revealed later). We gaze on it apprehensively, past the actors and scenery, for nearly the entire time. Characters continuously shift names and identities (who's who? who's where? when's when?). What's the purpose for all of this mess? One of the play's funniest sequences happens right away when the actors discuss how Inflatable Frankenstein came to be and offer surprisingly competing views of what the show is about. Informal discourse quickly degenerates into speakers stepping all over one another's statements and, finally, a rapid plunge into artistic theoritizing so dense and garbled it might as well be baby-talk. Purpose? Purpose lurches this way and that throughout the hour like a big, misshapen creature stitched together and shot through with high voltage.

It's a good time. One can love it to pieces and love individual pieces--the sharp, wacky performances, the clever sound and visual elements, the allusions to James Whale's films--all spliced together with a sense of desperation and aggression, the kind of desperation and aggression that brings forth humor. I can't answer the question, What does it all add up to? Maybe there really can't and shouldn't be an answer--the troupe's notes quote Artaud: "...to be more precise would spoil the poetry of the thing"--but maybe that's why last night's audience, at the end, sounded polite but less than smitten.

See Inflatable Frankenstein at The Kitchen--for sure!--through January 19. For schedule and ticketing details, click here.

The Kitchen
512 West 19th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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