By Brooke O'Harra and Casey Llewellyn, with Erin Courtney, Kristen Kosmas
and Heidi Schreck
Created and Directed by Brooke O'Harra
Off Off Broadway, Experimental Theatre Piece
Runs through 6.26.16
La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East 4th Street
by Ken Kaissar on 6.20.16
The cast of I'm Bleeding All Over the Place.
BOTTOM LINE: A captivating walking tour that explores the relationship between audience and performer.
Theatre is often discussed as an experience. But how often does it live up to that? When I think of an experience, I think of a haunted house, a rollercoaster or a waterslide. Things that engage not just mind and imagination, but one’s entire being: body, mind, and soul.
I'm Bleeding All Over the Place: A Living History Tour is very much an experience and a delightful one at that. A walking tour through the theater, it begins in the lobby for a brief introduction, and then the actors guide you through seven more stops through the dynamic performance space. Set designer Andreea Mincic gives La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre a mysterious and thrilling landscape. She reveals the space to you in small fragments, and when she finally allows you to see what’s behind curtain number one, the revelation is exhilarating. Sometimes you sit; sometimes you stand. Just don't get too comfortable in any one arrangement because you will be asked to continue your journey every ten minutes or so.
So what's it all about? It's kind of about you, the audience. Created and directed by Brooke O'Harra, the piece is concerned with the relationship between performer and spectator. The actors share intimate thoughts and ideas, sometimes of a sexual nature, that are relatable and common, but thoughts that most people keep to themselves in polite company. But then the actors will interrupt the story to remind you that the words they are saying are memorized, written by someone else, and don't really reflect who they are. It's a helpful reminder because the performers are so natural in their recitations that it becomes easy to confuse the memorized performance with an authentic human interaction. At times, I found myself wondering if the actor was really talking to me, and beckoning my response.
The performers keep their attention on the audience the whole time, establishing an intimate connection with each viewer. They constantly change their spatial and emotional relationship with the audience: they welcome, then unnerve, then amuse, then make you feel examined. But the entire experience is a delight from beginning to end. Even when I was made to feel slightly uncomfortable, I always felt safe, and in the end, I was empowered with a sense of courage and pride that I didn’t just have the experience, but I thoroughly enjoyed it too.
The text is primarily by Brooke O'Harra and Casey Llewellyn with contributions from Erin Courtney, Kristen Kosmas and Heidi Schreck. There is a lyrical quality to the language, making it very pleasant to listen to, which is fortunate because much of it is repeated throughout the 45-minute performance. Through each repetition, we discover the text in a fresh new way.
It's impossible to be indifferent to this piece. If you have an appetite for adventure, you'll relish it. If you are easily made to feel uncomfortable, this might challenge you. Either way, the piece will change how you think about human interaction.
I'm Bleeding All Over the Place performs three times consecutively, taking a new group through every half-hour. At the end of it, you are invited to stay and watch the next group experience it all over again. I felt as though I had become a member of a club, and was being offered an opportunity to enjoy the confusion of the uninitiated. If you go, I highly recommend taking the time to watch the next group. I tend to think the importance of the piece might lie not only in watching the performers, but watching the audience as well.
(I'm Bleeding All Over the Place: A Living History Tour plays at the Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East 4th Street, through June 26, 2016. The running time is 45 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Wednesdays thru Fridays at 7, 7:30 and 8; Saturdays at 3, 3:30, 4, 7, 7:30 and 8; and Sundays at 3, 3:30 and 4. Tickets are $25 and $20 for students and seniors and are available at lamama.org or by calling 646-430-5374.
I'm Bleeding All Over the Place: A Living History Tour is by Brooke O'Harra and Casey Llewellyn, with Erin Courney, Kristen Kosmas and Heidi Schreck. Created and Directed by Brooke O'Harra. Set Design is by Andreea Mincic. Costume Design is by Alice Tavener. Lighting Design is by Sarah Johnston. Sound Design is by Brendan Connelly. Original Design Concept is by Justin Townsend. Stage Manager is Max Pendergast.
The cast is Becca Blackwell, Jane Bradley, Hye Young Chyun, Sharon Hayes, Laryssa Husiak, Anna Kohler, Zave Martohardjono, Greg Mehrten, Alexander Paris, Tanya Selvaratnam, NIck Auer, Donna Barkman, and Dan Kuan Peeples.