I’m rediscovering my love of theatre this year, and what better way than with the Under the Radar Festival? The January festival is an international program of emerging talent, with each of the performances affordably priced so that you can take a gamble on something without caring entirely about what you’re getting yourself into. For the 2012 festival, I ended up seeing the one-woman show Chimera, the glam rock musical GOODBAR, and the group dance/poetry performance Word Becomes Flesh.
Chimera was an unsettling piece about a woman who finds out she is her own twin, or more specifically, she absorbed her twin in the womb and contains her DNA. That DNA of her unborn sister is what is in her son, making him effectively her nephew. The three characters in the piece, including a sardonic narrator, the mother, and her son, were all played by one actress, Suli Holum, who created Chimera with Deborah Stein. It was all played out in the tiny HERE theatre, with a kitchen backdrop that had many secret openings. The digital effects and lighting were also surprisingly good, creating a strange sort of atmosphere and fit with the scientific/medical focus. As a fan of medical oddities, I was also interested in the exploration of chimerism and what that would do to your sense of self, to be technically to people at once, to have a child who was not your own, but that of someone who you never allowed to be born. Like I said, unsettling.
The next Under the Radar performance I saw was GOODBAR, created by Bambï & Waterwell. It was my favorite of the festival, an over-the-top glam rock musical based on the 1975 novel Looking for Mr. Goodbar, about a schoolteacher who was brutally murdered, and turned out of have a double life, one that brought her close to many dangerous men in many shady clubs. I’ve been wanting to see the band Bambï again ever since I saw them as the house band at Littlefield’s talent shows, where I was blown away by the two singer’s: Hanna Cheek and Kevin Townley. (Watch their video for “Primatology,” filmed in the Natural History Museum, that’s a factually accurate and glammed out rock tribute to Jane Goodall.) Both Cheek and Townley have amazing, chameleon voices, especially Townley who plays the series of increasingly lecherous, growling men in the show. There were also video cameos by Ira Glass, Reggie Watts, and Moby, as well as enthusiastic backup dancers to the band. I’ve been listening to the GOODBAR EP on Spotify at work all week, and hope to be able to catch the NYC-based Bambï again soon.
The last performance I saw was Word Becomes Flesh, a piece by Marc Bamuthi Joseph based around dance and poetry. It was originally a one-man show performed by Joseph, but for Under the Radar it was staged as a collaborate performance. Different actors would come forward to embody fathers composing letters to their unborn sons, focused mainly on black male identity and played out with dance punctuations. There was also a great DJ, which will always get points from me.
This month, I was also able to see Looking for a Missing Employee at the COIL theatre festival (read my review for Hyperallergic here), and have tickets to the spring performance of Gatz at the Public, which I’m thrilled about. (It’s a six-hour performance that revolves around a reading of the Great Gatsby.) And, well, I’m seeing Sleep No More for the eighth time in February. Maybe 2012 will be the year of theatre for me!