BWW Reviews: Big Dance Theater Captivates in Ich, Kürbisgeist
Last Friday marked the first time I watched a live theater performance from a swivel chair. The occasion was Big Dance Theater's presentation of Ich, Kürbisgeist at New York Live Arts. Directed by Paul Lazar and written by Sibyl Kempson, the work is a chaotic and humorous collage of sound, movement, and visual art.
From the sea of swivel chairs that allow the audience to follow the performers' movements, it is clear that Ich, Kürbisgeist succeeds at the difficult task of keeping the audience eagerly engaged in a plot that is often impossible to understand.
Language is the most conspicuous reason for the difficulty in following the plot of Ich, Kürbisgeist. Performed entirely in an invented language described as a combination of "English, Swedish, German, and Sid Caesar," the dialogue is often unintelligible. However, it becomes evident quite quickly that an ample supply of humorous comments can be understood, and the action is wonderfully entertaining. Throughout the hour-long performance, the complex language serves as a valuable backdrop for well-timed jokes and vivid characterization.
Delivering this perfect balance of confusion and wittiness, the members of Big Dance Theater are brilliant, completely committed to the characters that are brought to life through their peculiar exchanges. They share incredible stories of witches and days past while smashing pumpkins and vigorously chewing seeds, always absorbed in the importance of their world. As the work progresses, highly structured, gestural dance phrases choreographed by co-director Annie-B Parson add depth to the characters and their nonsensical rituals.
Both Joanne Howard's detailed set and Suzanne Bocanegra's semi-medieval style costumes feature familiar historical forms fashioned out of scraps and impossibly modern materials. Like the dialog, these components offer just enough of a familiar reference to keep the audience intrigued. While a simple cabin and wooden shoes are recognizable as belonging to an earlier time, a television set and basketball shorts render all assumptions invalid.
Adding to the magical world of Ich, Kürbisgeist, complex videos by Josh Higgason and lighting by Joe Levasseur introduce both comical and puzzling accompaniment to the characters' endeavors. Sound designed by Jamie McElhinney and Ben Williams rounds out the environment, and gives small shrieking voices to the pumpkins that fill a good part of the space.
It is not really important in the end to understand the plot line of Ich, Kürbisgeist. A willingness to observe each well crafted moment, as strange as it may be, is all that is required to enjoy this masterfully quirky, intriguingly complete work.
Ich, Kürbisgeist can be seen at New York Live Arts through November 9th.
Photo Credit: Ian Douglas