By Andressa Furletti and Debora Balardini; Directed by Linda Wise
Produced by Group .BR
Off Broadway, Immersive Experience
Runs through 11.18.18
Aich Studios, 218 East 25th Street
by Asya Gorovits on 11.9.18
Debora Balardini in Inside The Wild Heart. Photo by Alexandre Maciel.
BOTTOM LINE: Group .BR brings back their immersive experience based on the work of acclaimed Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector.
“Getting lost is also a way,” suggests Clarice Lispector, the muse of Inside the Wild Heart. And perhaps getting lost is the best way of experiencing this immersive show that honors a renounced Brazilian Jewish writer. Her surreal work materializes in a couple dozen of art installations, occupying multiple levels of a historic brownstone. Her work also possesses the bodies of eleven performers, and might seduce your soul by the end of the night.
A red heart marks the entrance, inviting you to come inside. The eerie net of arteries on the ceiling inside suggests that something other than romance lives here. The authors of the experience Andressa Furletti and Debora Balardini, who are also two of the performers, have extracted eight topics from Lispector’s massive body of work and assigned each to a single performer. Throughout evening, actors change characters while exploring the motifs of faith, freedom, madness, time, solitude, violence, identity, and love.
The experience is not guided, so you are free to move around the house and leave whenever you want. You might pick a deep comfy chair, soak in the space, and watch the action unfold around you. I spent a while on the first floor, alternating angles in the main space and nibbling on chocolate I found. Various scenes, with dialogue mostly in English, follow one another. The stories are not necessarily connected—it's as if somebody disassembled a book and playfully shuffled the pages. But they are irresistible. Like with chocolate candies, you always want “just one more.”
The actors come and go, playing their scenes amidst the audience. A man looking for work is interviewed by an intimidating woman with a whip. Another man in a full bear suit leans against a grand piano that is covered in a flower pattern. Scene. A woman flirts while showing off a suitcase full of tranquilizers. She fetches orange peels out of her bra, playfully admitting that the real perfume is too expensive. Scene. A woman harasses her maid with a thousand tasks. Scene. In order to enjoy the experience, you must abandon the “proscenium theater audience” mode and dive into the stream-of-consciousness of Lispector’s writing.
You might choose to follow an actor and observe their personal quest and transformation within one of the themes. I found myself drawn to Debora Balardini’s energized, powerful performance and was ready to commit to watching her read a telephone book or take a nap. Spoiler alert, her track includes much more exciting scenes, including a beautifully choreographed murder that gave me goose bumps.
Occasionally the intense pacing in the apartment above, a piercing shriek, or the smell of fresh-baked goods steals your attention. Following your curiosity also proves to be a potent way of traveling Inside the Wild Heart. The abundant details of visual design can occupy you for hours. There are a few interactive installations like The Tree Of Secret Desires. The entire patio is designated as a space of reflection, where audience members can share their thoughts. Red roses, pills, cockroaches, and eggs are the most recurring visual motives in this exuberant set design by Furletti and Montserrat Vargas. The textures and colors reign in this space, enhanced by Charlie Jarboe's lighting design.
Inside the Wild Heart first opened in 2016 in a warehouse in Williamsburg. But it’s difficult now to imagine this production elsewhere other then Aich Studios, which consists of a split-level loft, a chamber apartment, and a grand space with another loft and a balcony. Art installations seamlessly blend in with the native artistic interior ornately decorated with plaster reliefs and antique furniture. Even bathrooms host art, making a trivial act of using them an invitation for self-reflection. The program contains floor plans with all the artwork listed, marrying the theatrical experience to the world of fine art. The house is even open on certain days outside the performances for those primarily interested in the installation.
As with many large-scale, unguided, immersive productions, the fear of missing out is likely to arise. I had a hard time battling it, and having multiple events going on was not helpful. The video design (Paul Leopold) is rather distracting in most cases, simply because it has such a different feel from the rest of the house. It persistently calls for your attention while being mostly decorative. That said, I did love some of the video installations, like an egg-shaped screen above the kitchen table showing black-and-white footage of a chicken.
Inside the Wild Heart is passionate, lavish, and a little bit crazy. Like a raging torrent, it might sweep you off your feet. But there are quiet bays in which you can seclude, like listening to a monologue of a woman bathing in shredded paper, or stroking rose-covered blankets in the bedroom. There is no wrong way to experience Clarice Lispector’s writing, and getting lost in this surreal dream is perhaps one of the best.
(Inside the Wild Heart plays at Aich Studios, 218 East 25th Street, through November 18, 2018. Running time is up to 2 hours 30 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 7. Tickets are $30 - $65 and are available at group.br.com.)
Inside the Wild Heart is conceived by Andressa Furletti and Debora Balardini. Produced by Group .BR, Monica Vilela and Roberta Fernandes. Directed by Linda Wise. Original Score by Sergio Krakowski. Costume Design by Jussara Lee. Video Design by Paul Leopold. Lighting Design by Charlie Jarboe. Set Design and Art Installation by Montserrat Vargas and Andressa Furletti. Stage Manager is Kristin Rion.
The cast is Andressa Furletti, Debora Balardini, Fabiana Mattedi, Gio Mielle, Goncalo Ruivo, Ibsen Santos, Patricia Faolli, Mirko Faienza, Montserrat Vargas, and Yasmin Santana. Music performed by Mario Forte.