Thursday, January 14, 2016

Triple "Realness" at Abrons: Lamar + Markey + Shelton Mann

As if the expected adventure of American Realness were not enough, I decided to turn it up a notch, at the last minute, by slipping in an extra show between the two I had already scheduled to see yesterday. So, basically, from around 5:30 to 10pm, I lived at Abrons Arts Center, dashing from M. Lamar (Destruction) to Erin Markey (A Ride on the Irish Cream) to Sara Shelton Mann (Sara (the smuggler)) with hurried bathroom breaks in between.

It was a popular evening at Abrons with the last two of these shows sold out, although the festival can always create ways to cram in the desperate. The extra audience seating at Sara (The Smuggler) tested me for claustrophobia, though I made it through just fine.

Markey's on for several more shows in Abrons's Experimental Theater before the end on Sunday, and her personal chemistry with co-star Becca Blackwell (so winning as "Irish Cream," a boat or a horse or...) anchors all the wild, comic tanginess and simmering eroticism. Accompanied by a rock band with music by Markey, Emily Bate and Kenny Mellman, this production is alive, crazed, relentless, voracious and completely irresistible. I'm glad I took a chance and made it in. (Click for scheduling/ticketing info.)

For Lamar's 70-minute solo, Destruction, the audience looks on from within a dimly-lit space (Abrons's Underground Theater) with a ceiling sloping darkly and heavily over a shallow performance area. The gloom and compression suit this project. An operatic lament co-written with Tucker Culbertson, Destruction calls vengeance on white supremacy and racist violence through art director Sabin Michael Calvert's creepy visuals (smoky stone crypt; coffin; handsome Black male corpse; severe subtitles) and the performer's countertenor pyrotechnics and piano work. Think Diamanda Galás but, in Lamar's words, "Negrogothic Devil worshipping free black man in the blues tradition." Lamar's vocals dip into the good well of Black spirituals and uppity-ism and have the tone of dread prophecy, swerving from stone-cold anger to bleak despair and back again. The number 2116 appears in the video projection, perhaps a hint that--despite the grieving singer's consigning everyone to hell--society might actually have something like 100 years to get its damn act together. 100 years--but no more.

Destruction continues tonight at 8:30pm and concludes with a 10pm performance on Saturday. Get more information and your tickets here.

Sara (the smuggler), an hour-long event by dance artist Sara Shelton Mann, is a patchwork infused with emotions, a performed life review, a fast trot from childhood through to the now, spoken in a great, gender-blurring, Lauren Bacall but a tad drier voice. (Her essential nature: "I've always felt kind of half on the planet and half off." Of discovering Contact Improvisation: "I got to touch people, and I didn't have to talk.") Her slipped-through history in dance--starring the likes of Alwin Nikolais, Murray Louis and Remy Charlip--was less of a draw for me than her engagement with energy healing, which parallels mine. In this way, her hour did not disappoint as it folded in a guided meditation for her by Keith Hennessy, some shamanic-looking clearing work she unleashed upon the patient Kayvon Pourazar volunteering from the audience, and a vigorous somatic exercise for anyone who cared to participate.  (Closed)

Abrons Arts Center
466 Grand Street (between Pitt and Willett Streets), Manhattan

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