Damn I love theatre.
I've been looking forward to this play for a while now. It's my first Philadelphia theater experience and it bodes well in general. The gutsy production, the excellent set design, and the quality of the acting were all very satisfying. Pig Iron, I've been told, is the most interesting theater company in town, and yes, I can see they are good. They embrace the abstract, they use the body, the entire stage. The idea itself, a reinactment of an evacuation on 9/11, was powerful, and the stage, and the confident, crisp production. But there were a few choices made that I just don't understand. One, when the actors propel themselves out of the stairwell, and two the relatively tame use of the actual stairwell itself. The first problem it seems to me is obvious, moving the bodies out of the space breaks the tension of the piece itself. Yes, I get the symbolism of the gesture, how they hurl themselves around, but the world of the stairwell itself was so convincing, so powerful, that the energy of the play seemed to me to disperse once this event happened. Fine if they would have done something with it, but largely it was a missed opportunity. Notice on the photo of the stage it sells itself as contained. And so it should be. Nothing, not even the Presidential heads bumping into each other, made good use of the decision to leave the space of the stairwell.
The second thing, the fact that the actual stairwell wasn't used to its full effect may be my own personal taste. But, I kept asking myself, why aren't those bodies falling in the stairwell? Why isn't everything that's happening outside of it, happening in? Why aren't they tapping into the beautiful energy they create in their choice of repeating the descent over and over again? And why not more of the ghostly scenes of people in what we assume to be moments before the evacuation, moments lingering in the dust? Very effective, and we could have used more. And why not, I must add, have two staircases side by side, two sets of people descending rather than the "off space?" It would have been very powerful indeed.
There were other minor problems. And questions about the success of decisions to be realistic vs. surreal. Still, it was inventive theatre, refreshing as hell, and I would see another show they did without question.
Tomorrow night Amnesia Curiosa, which takes place in a surgical theater. And damn Safari with its lack of a way to embed links.