BWW Reviews: Faye Driscoll Performs YOU'RE ME at Abrons Arts Center - It's Okay to Laugh About Nostalgia
Faye Driscoll's 90-minute duet, "You're Me," part of American Realness 2013 at Abrons Arts Center Playhouse January 18-20, is simultaneously a shocking and hauntingly relatable work of art. Ms. Driscoll and her duet partner, Aaron Mattocks, never leave the stage. From their first appearance, elevated on boxes and clothed in multiple layers of gaudy clothing, jewelry, wigs, and shawls, to the point that their arms are full of bundles of indiscernible treasures that eventually slip to the floor, they are transparent, like children, both proud and bewildered by the situation in which they have been discovered.
"You're Me," involves piggy-back rides, feathers, crudely spray painting bodies and clothes, transferring items between dancers by way of mouth, and sprinkling the stage with baby powder, fruit and every imaginable clothing item. It is a ritualistic embodiment of totally unsupervised playtime, and Driscoll is speculating about what would happen if we could still dwell in that space of total abandon. Her supposition is based in a living relationship, a duet, which results in a battle of the sexes so sincere that it seems slightly unintentional.
The duet bounces between "scenes," each delivering a scenario with new, but never specifically labeled, characters: an endearing young couple, graffiti-spraying gangsters, hipsters at the party of the century, patients in an insane asylum, a circus act, large birds, maybe even dinosaurs. Within each scene Driscoll and Mattocks are pitted against one another, always resolving to rely on one other in the end, no matter how silly, precarious or anticlimactic the result may be.
Driscoll's true genius, her pure mastery of form, is perfected like a scientific formula, but she disguises it in layers of wigs, spray paint, feathers, fruit, huge sheets of cardboard, baby powder, several chests worth of dress up clothes and general chaos. Like all great performers she is sly. Slowly and imperceptibly she convinces the audience that, nothing weird is happening because everything is both embarrassingly familiar and methodically presented.
This work is also a candid attack on the formality of performance art, and an unexpected invitation to the audience to let their post-modern dance guard down. Driscoll and Mattocks consciously spill everything over the fourth wall. Their obvious expressions, secretly chastising one another with an over-the-shoulder glance into the audience or the always-recognizable non-verbal plea of approval that was shot more than once to the spectators, took away any preconceived separation of performer and audience. The dancers smirked and giggled unintentionally, reminding the audience that they, too, are humans.
"You're Me" provides the opportunity to revisit a bizarre, half-resurrected memory and realize that it can stay bizarre and half-resurrected. Let that be the new name for nostalgia, and you can sprinkle baby powder on it, eat some of the fruit being passed around the theater on silver trays and wonder what on earth they could think of next.