Friday, March 1, 2013

Strolling with Faïn and Kocik and "E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E"

Somehow I never before considered that a preamble could be visualized--embodied, really--as an actual milling about of performers before a show begins. Such is the pre-ambulating perambulation at New York Live Arts this week where, after the historic Hurricane Sandy postponement, Commons Choir/Daria Faïn & Robert Kocik finally got a chance to open E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E.

As the audience enters the theater, the aisles seem clogged with extra bodies just standing there at the entrances to rows of seating. It turns out that they're members of choreographer Faïn and poet/librettist Kocik's Commons Choir hovering over you and casting pleasant gazes at you and one another, maybe going up or down a few steps. A little unnerving, irritating even--although, as time and the piece goes on, this gets more normalized and is nothing compared to their startling reactive outbursts of movement in at least one row that I could see (reserved for a few of these choir members) in the middle of the piece.

E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E spills up from a stage filled with people of notable racial and ethnic diversity into the audience because--as I understand it, and I'm not saying I've got it right--it is meant to grab all of us up in its experiment. It is about us--the human race--and how we got to be as we are, where we might have taken a particular unfortunate turn and how, if we retraced our steps and looked at the origin of language, breaking it down into its component bits and sounds, we might want to start fresh, we might deconstruct and construct new structures, we might do things very differently. Program notes describe this work as "an epic, town hall musical that calls upon a panoply of reparative tones, tunes and intentions to plead the case for a more compassionate economy, proposing, with Thomas Paine and Martin Luther King, money as everyone's." A hybrid of continuous movement and vocalization, the ensemble work is, the creators say, performed in the idiom of "Re-English," since English might be "an inherently commercial, mercenary, discursive, duplicitous tongue," one that they have cleverly attempted to "re-tune, detox and de-delude."

I don't pretend to understand the demarcation, differentiation and meaning of the line up of four acts (here identified as "amulets") and their so-called "(intermission)"--which happened exactly when?, since we went straight through the work's too-lengthy-feeling 90+ minutes--or who represented the characters named in the notes--"Uzume," "Souffleur," "Perineum, "Thrasymachus," et al. But Faïn and Kocik's imagination, particularly with words, charms the hell out of me. The work breathes like one organism formed of many individual ones that rise and fall in levels of intensity, organize themselves alone or in the company of others, remain stationary or move, perform clear, if enigmatic, seed sounds and simple gestures, sometimes orchestrated into seamless rhythmic sense and harmony.

Although everyone--and this is a big cast, including Faïn and Kocik--figures into E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E, the work contains singular moments of transcendent boldness. Larissa Velez-Jackson, who incessantly wields then breaks her wooden saber, triggers shrieks of laughter from the crowd, but then you sense that she is skillfully drawing this harsh music out of them like a conductor or, perhaps, a shaman. Levi Gonzalez hangs onto monologues with heroic earnestness while shrinking and scrunching his body in various punishing ways. Faïn goes right up to Peter Jacobs, a self-contained and self-assured Ayn Rand type, with forthright, gentle and, always, precisely applied movement remedies.

A vague memory from the 60's of anti-war poster showing a a rifle-bearing soldier being offered a flower stays with me. There's a whiff of this innocence in E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E, and something of the (for worse or for better) foolhardiness of it. But to watch Faïn with Jacobs, just in those moments, is to let go and fall in love with her entire project.

Faïn and Kocik's performers demonstrate palpable unity and commitment. In addition to Velez-Jackson, Gonzalez and Jacobs, they are Christina Andrea, Maximilian Balduzzi, CC Chang, Hazuki Homma, Whitney Hunter, Aram Jibilian, Dora Koimtzi, Mina Nishimura, Jaime Ortega, Peter Sciscioli, Kensaku Shinohara, Samita Sinha, Emily Skillings, Ben Spatz, Despina Stamos, Tatyana Tenenbaum, Julie UlehiaSaúl Ulerio and Katherine A. Young who also composed the instrumental music performed by Jen Baker (trombone) and Sam Sowyrda (percussion). Lighting is by Carrie Wood.

E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E has two remaining performances--tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

There will be a post-performance Stay Late Discussion this evening, moderated by Carla Peterson, Artistic Director of New York Live Arts.

New York Live Arts
219 West 19th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues), Manhattan

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