Saturday, February 20, 2010

The 25th Frame

"…brain can't make sense of it…or stop it."

Went to the Kitchen tonight for the second of three performances of The 25th Frame, the new dance/theater work from Brooklyn's Alex Escalante confronting the way manipulated language and the ceaseless swarm of messages we live in and under completely fucks us up. The piece was performed by Escalante, Nancy Garcia and Jon Moniaci, and it was a 55-minute jolt.

Escalante, doing things on a ladder

Dark and funny, The 25th Frame opens with Escalante and Garcia up on stage-bookending ladders engaging in rapid-fire tag-team psychobabble, peppering the room with repeating syllables that bleed and morph into others: "buy-buy-buy-buy-buy," "true-true-true-true-true-truth-truth-truth-truth-justice-and-the-American-way," mimicking/mocking the way we're hypno-bludgeoned by advertising, polit-speak and propaganda. This went on for 10 minutes or so and was set off crisply by the next movement, with the pair descending for a long, elegantly expressive dance, struggling on the floor under the crushing weight of invisible forces and slipping in and out of symmetry and synchronicity. Excellent choreography (by the pair in collaboration) and the silence in the room made the sweep of arms and legs across the Kitchen floor all the more dramatic — that is, until Moniaci's live electronic score crept into range, eventually growing into prickly presence as Garcia and Escalante, upright now, vibrated around the room, caught up in the manic energy field that's replaced our old atmosphere of oxygen and nitrogen and other useful stuff. Watching Nancy Garcia the performer vibrate like that made me think of the way Nancy Garcia the musician's still-pretty-new album, Be the Climb, vibrates out of the same frustration and with some similar tactics ("I wanna make something clear — I-I-I wanna make something clear — I wanna make something clear"). The rest of the piece moved briskly and pushed the commentary (as the performance itself already was) into true artfulness, utilizing video, animated Soviet prop-films (though an eagle that gobbles a steroidal diet of money and weapons could be labeled as objective reportage, too) and an ending meta-auction conducted brilliantly by Moniaci, involving more vibrating and the piece itself being sold for a nice five-figure sum.

It was great to be reminded by smart people that the very nature of this society (kind of all of it) is corrupting and corroding…regardless of whether there's fuck-all to be done about it on anything but a personal level. Do we not talk about it because it's already so suffocating?

One more night of Escalante's piece tomorrow (Saturday the 20th), which could be a nice lead-in to gigs by Evangelista and Zola Jesus back on the LES, if you know what's good.