Created and performed by John Kelly
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 3.11.17
La MaMa, 66 East 4th Street
by Adrienne Urbanski on 3.9.18
John Kelly in Time No Line.
BOTTOM LINE: This look at Kelly’s lifelong drive to create art and be heard makes this a compelling piece worth experiencing.
New York City is no longer the home to cutting edge arts and culture that it once was, with venues shutting down and generic silver high rises going up in their place. However, the solo show Time No Line provides a glimpse at a more exciting time in the city, when it was still a place for artists to find their voices in small clubs. In his “live memoir” show John Kelly explores his path to finding himself artistically.
Kelly’s passion for self-expression has been ceaseless. Instead of sticking to one medium, Kelly has worked as a ballet dancer, painter, opera singer, drag performer, and musician. And he has kept track of his creative projects and passions in journals spanning over thirty years. During Time No Line, Kelly reads from these journals, chronicling his slow climb towards artistic fulfillment. A backdrop is cleverly constructed from physical reproductions and video projections of his journal pages. When Kelly takes a break from reading his inner most thoughts, autobiographical text is projected as Kelly uses visual art and movement to express other times in his life.
Kelly’s creative pursuits began with an interest in dance. As a teenager in New Jersey, Kelly enrolled in classes with a former Rockette and went on to study with the American Ballet Theater. After realizing that 17 was too late to start a career as a dancer, Kelly abandons dance and embarks on studying visual art. Kelly’s background in dance and performance later draws him towards drag performance, noting that at the time it seemed politically subversive. He performs at legendary East Village spots like The Pyramid Club where he develops a devoted following; eventually he performs at Carnegie Hall as his alter ego Dagmar Onassis (the fictional daughter of Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis). Kelly’s drag talents also include parodying Joni Mitchell, and he performs a Mitchellesque number as “Miss Canada.”
Kelly’s life is not told entirely chronologically (hence the title, Time No Line) and the most compelling and touching moments are when Kelly delves into his experience living as a gay man in lower Manhattan in the 80s and early 90s, watching his fellow artists and lovers become engulfed in the AIDS epidemic. While diary entries expressing his sadness and fear are projected, Kelly moves across the stage drawing chalk outlines of his body, like those at a crime scene. When Kelly learns he is HIV positive his life is on edge. Never sure if his days are numbered, his need to express his story is even greater. He later laments that so many voices of his generation have been lost along, and that this tragic time has created a rift between him and young queer men today, one that he wishes to bridge.
Kelly’s show is a unique mix of visual art, dance, video, and music that shows Kelly’s range as an artist. The rich history he has lived through and his ceaseless desire to express himself creatively make his show immensely compelling and endearing. As further evidence of his artistic range, Sideways Into the Shadows, the companion exhibit of Kelly’s artwork, is at the Howl Gallery in the East Village through March 25.
(Time No Line plays at La MaMa, 66 East 4th Street, through March 11, 2018. The running time is 1 hour 15 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7; Sundays at 2. Tickets are $25 and are available at lamama.org or by calling 212-352-3101. )
Time No Line is written and performed by John Kelly.