By T.S. Eliot; Directed by Daniel Domig and Christopher Domig
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Spoken Word/Poetry
Runs through 8.29.15
VENUE #12: 64E4 UNDERGROUND, 64 East 4th Street
by Keith Paul Medelis on 8.25.15
Christopher Domig in The Waste Land. Photo by Thomas Weitzman.
BOTTOM LINE: A smart, slick performance with one man, a puppet, and a celebrated, misunderstood author.
I have to start with a confession. I actually have no idea what this play is about. And I am incredibly content with that. T.S. Eliot’s esteemed and ignored poem is lovably adapted for the stage by brothers Daniel Domig and Christopher Domig (also our performer). They seem to anticipate in the program that my confusion may be expected with a quote from Eliot himself: “genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”
Communicate The Waste Land does. It’s a meticulously crafted piece that strips the 64E4 Underground space of any curtain, exposing the basicness of this small box. Domig enters in full suit and bow tie; there’s a sawdust covered floor, a table, two chairs, and a puppet head. As the play morphs so too does his costume, inevitably covered in sawdust, then shoes removed, then pants rolled up—perhaps indicating a man of affluence, affected by the weight of the world.
It’s somewhat tricky to call this a one-man show, as the puppet has such an important, distinctive presence. Somehow Domig doesn’t seem alone. And then there are the simply and beautifully designed pieces of furniture that shape an endless variety of configurations that help to tell Eliot’s story (I think.) Characters and locations are abstractly hinted at, including what I see as a kind of fortune teller, a queen, a barge, and, yes, even a table that, at one point, seems a separation of a vast chasm between two old lovers.
Domig takes his time in this piece to enact a poem only a few hundred lines long. It’s easy to see how one could glance over this poem with a shrug and a page turn. Instead, we’re treated to an ease of a play. The Domigs even allow for a prolonged scene in almost complete darkness, only to reveal next a surprisingly simple and shocking image that I can best understand as a hanged man.
The more of Fringe I catch the more I begin to appreciate the shows that create resourceful beauty. And The Waste Land is one of those shows. There are others that, rules and regulations be damned, will try and create something bigger than themselves. And after the reiteration of curtain speeches that basically make you feel like unwanted guests who should "get the hell out as quickly as possible,” The Waste Land is a breath of fresh air. We feel embraced by Domig’s captivating performance. Now to study up on my T.S. Eliot…
(The Waste Land plays at VENUE #12: 64E4 UNDERGROUND, 64 East 4th Street, through August 29, 2015. Performances are Wed 8/19 at 5:15; Sat 8/22 at 2:45; Mon 8/24 at 9:30; Wed 8/26 at 3; and Sat 8/29 at 7. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit wastelandproject.com.)