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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"THEM" returns to its East Village birthplace

Johnnie Mercer Cruise and Hentyle Yapp
dance in THEM at Performance Space New York.
(photo: Rachel Papo)

Michael Watkiss and Alvaro Gonzalez Dupuy
(photo: Rachel Papo)


Conceived, directed, and performed by:

Chris Cochrane (music/sound)
Dennis Cooper (text/spoken word performance)
Ishmael Houston-Jones (movement)

at Performance Space New York (East Village Series)


Tilt in the direction of a memory, starting anywhere. With sound: a deepening drone. With light: splashed across a man's back and legs otherwise engulfed by semidarkness. With bodies: still, lining the margins, covered in shadows.

THEM (made at and for Performance Space 122, premiered in 1986, now revived for Performance Space New York) is a way of remembering the AIDS epidemic and the lives downtown artists led and lost. With Chris Cochrane's electric guitar--caustic shredding, blurting, pounding dissonance. With Dennis Cooper's text--direct and revealing, vulnerable, delivered from off to one side, with isolating distance and longing observation. With dancers, led and gathered by Ishmael Houston-Jones, who toss themselves across the space and at each other with fiery abandon, who occupy the expanse, crafting a world necessary for themselves and their kind. With rites of gesture and behavior. With exploration through touch. With play. With aggression. With a visceral sense of the overpowering, inescapable presence of death...and Death.

The theater at Performance Space New York has just the right degree of plain-and-grim to help this memory work. Houston-Jones's score has been improvised by each of his dancers; the current revival's vigorous cohort includes Alvaro Gonzalez Dupuy, Johnnie Cruise Mercer, Michael Parmelee, Jeremy Pheiffer, Kensaku Shinohara, Michael Watkiss, and Hentyle Yapp. (Mercer and Yapp are especially headstrong, cogent performers, alone or together.) A spare, functional design--here a simple white mattress; there a menacing plank of wood--makes human movements and energies pop in the space, setting the stage for the emergence of a nightmare buried deep in the work and the blaring sirens (invoking, at once, a speeding ambulance and a city under threat) with which Cochrane drags the work to its end.

THEM continues tonight (7:30pm) and Thursday (7pm) with a post-show talk with Visual AIDS on Thursday. For information and tickets, click here.

Performance Space New York
150 First Avenue, 4th Floor (between 9th and 10th Streets), Manhattan

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