Conceived by Anna Kohler; Directed by Caleb Hammond
Produced by Bridget Balodis.
Off Off Broadway, Experimental Play
Runs through 12.22.16
Abrons Arts Center Experimental Theater, 466 Grand Street
by Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti on 12.15.16
Anna Kohler and Katiana Rangel in MYTHO? Lure of Wildness. Photo by Carlos Gonzales.
BOTTOM LINE: Pathos and play skip hand in hand in Anna Kohler’s experimental theater piece MYTHO? Lure of Wildness, wandering through memories, stumbling over age, and shouting into the wind.
In the past, people best achieved Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)—a neural reaction that some people have to certain kinds of sensorial stimulus—in a museum or concert hall, or in nature. Inside museums, the low hush and murmur of one’s companions as you walk among the silent explosions of the canvasses causes sensory explosions. In the concert hall, the basso and baritone resonate like beautiful boulders on the heath, the treble the flowers that grow on top. In nature, there still is the whisper of the wind in the willow-fronds, across the fields. In MYTHO? Lure of Wildness, a new world premiere conceived and performed by Wooster Group alumna Anna Kohler, these experiences are constructed with pre-recorded noises and chaotic movement. In the jubilant cacophony, the characteristic ASMR tingles are, regrettably, lost in the mix.
Structurally, MYTHO? Lure of Wildness is divided into two parts; both deal with the self-discovery of a female model. Told through autobiographical anecdotes and reenacted memories, Kohler explains her journey to discovering her own physical beauty. Later, she contends with a reflection of that same beauty fading. Exploring the relationships between subject muse and creator, subject and object, model and artist, and what is at the center of the creative mind, Kohler’s MYTHO? is experienced like a fevered dream. Utilizing speakers, video projections, and non-linear images to evoke a sensory experience, a portrait of a mature artist emerges from the chaos.
MYTHO? investigates how ASMR sounds create an intimate, pleasurable physical experience. ASMR is increasingly popular online, where it is experienced by just one person at a time; MYTHO? attempts to evoke the response in an entire live theater audience. MYTHO? takes the idea of ASMR and tries to smash it against the rocks. An experience exactly cultivated to induce pleasure is a false experience. Pleasure comes, MYTHO? seems to say, in the impossible moments when we are together as one. Unfortunately, the piece struggles to achieve the fullness of these moments.
Shaun Irons and Lauren Petty, video designers known collectively as AutomaticRelease, explore real-time video editing in the piece, capturing cinematic stills of the live performance. Their talents are somewhat squandered here, producing fleetingly interesting vignettes that pass like so much flotsam and jetsam. Coupled with a speaker system carried by technicians, a lackluster auditory experience intended to provoke the relaxation sensory experience of ASMR, the resulting effect is that MYTHO? feels as though it was created as a vehicle to explore technologies, rather than a theatrical piece made stronger with stimuli. During a period of the show set amongst a sunny garden, actors pace through the audience, spraying ambiguous smells that unfortunately served more to choke a few audience members than transport anyone to the South of France.
In addition to Kohler, MYTHO? features renowned performance artist Hapi Phace, drag queen and stand-up comic of Pyramid Club fame. The ensemble cast is rounded out by Alenka Kraigher, Katiana Rangel, and Adam Strandberg. The cast is enthusiastic, if somewhat scattered in their energy. As nude models in a French artist’s school, Kraighter and Rangel exude grace and focus, and are appropriately transfixing. Hapi Phace, a convincing enough art instructor—all blue smock and large, imposing s(h)tick—gets a bit lost in the noise of the scenes, and seems to be hoping to connect with Kohler, despite the fact that she often seems a million miles away. Kohler casts herself in the titular role of Mytho, a person prone to fantasies and exaggeration; it is appropriate that there is a quality of absurdity to her performance, both charming in its totality and overwhelming in its loudness. At times, she seems to burst out in disarming anger, while at others, she is somewhat hard to hear, whispering her lines and speaking in cyclical poetical lines.
Combining live performance, video, aromas, and intimate three-dimensional sound in order to create moments of euphoric ASMR experience and transport the audience through Kohler’s memories, MYTHO? is an unabashedly passionate celebration of Kohler’s experience of both creating and consuming art. Enter MYTHO? Lure of Wildness with a willingness to not understand what is always going on; instead, let it wash over you, witnessing it like a circus of vivid colors and cacophonous sounds.
(MYTHO? Lure of Wildness plays at Abrons Arts Center Experimental Theater, 466 Grand Street, through December 22, 2016. The running time is two hours without intermission. Performances are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8; Sunday at 2. Tickets are $25 and are available at abronsartcenter.org or by calling 212-352-3101.)
Mytho? Lure of Wildness is conceived by Anna Kohler. Directed by Caleb Hammond. Assistant Directed by Phoebe Axario. Video Design by AutomaticRelease. Sound Design by Almeda Beynon. Associate Sound Designer is AJ Surasky. Lighting Design by Jeffrey Nash. Technical Director is Bill Kennedy. Stage Manager is Max Pendergast. Assistant Stage Manager is Nick Auer. Video Assistant is Allison Schneider. Wardrobe is by Adrianna Covone. Production Management by Susan Wilson. Produced by Bridget Balodis. Original Costume Design y Tara Webb. Development Design by Bozkurt Karasu. Development Producing Support by Tim Ney. New York Producing Support by Ariana Smart Truman.
Cast includes Anna Kohler, Hapi Phace, Alenka Kraigher, Katiana Rangel, Adam Standberg.