Photo by Leoni Ravestein.
BOTTOM LINE:A Dutch existential monologue that will take you down some very thought-provoking dark alleyways.
The brain on stage is a fitting analogy of what your own brain is likely to do while watching A Woman Of No Distinction, written and performed by Claire Fleury and co-directed by Fleury and Jantien Koenders, playing at the Cherry Lane Theatre as part of the NY Fringe Festival. This brain hangs from the ceiling, attached to some wiry twine a hair's breadth above the lone table on stage. And as you listen to Fleury wax philosophically, and you begin to lose track of time following her sometimes absurd but nevertheless always infallible logic, you find yourself eventually looking back and seeing that the brain has risen a least a foot or two, dangling higher than before, and you can't help but wonder how you could have missed such a dramatic change. You can't be certain if it took a jump while you were distracted by one of Fleury's mind-bending tangents, or if in fact it has been moving steadily all along.
You try to see how long you can keep your eyes strained on the hanging brain, trying to catch a nudge in action, a twitch of the twine, and Fleury's hypnotic voice starts to act as a mind-altering drug. You can't help but become reabsorbed in her stories of trash cans and longitudal predestination, of shady hotel rendezvous and mysteriously appearing electrical wires. As you try to decipher the mystery behind her shifting gazes and their correlation to her erratic hand gestures, you look back and the brain has elusively risen another foot.
A Woman Of No Distinction flouts itself as "an existential thriller for people with a brain" and that's no lie. Trying to follow the paradoxes of a person having no qualities to speak of, for example, does require some delightful mental exercise, and by the end you feel like you've had quite a workout. You know by then you've taken quite a journey, but part of the challenge is figuring out where it has taken you, or for that matter where you even started or how and when you got to wherever it is you ended up.
Fleury's show is a Dutch import translated into English and is what I consider a perfect example of European avant-garde theater, which I think is unfortunately under represented nowadays. I recommend it to anyone looking for something slightly different, often mind boggling, and even surprisingly comical in its existential observations.
(A Woman Of No Distinction plays at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street, through August 23rd. Remaining performances are on Saturday 8/21 at 6pm and Monday 8/23 at 2pm. For more information visit www.clairefleury.com. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, and are available at FringeNYC.com, by calling 866.468.7619, or in person at FringeCENTRAL, located at 1 East 8th Street at 5th Avenue. There is NO LATE SEATING for Fringe NYC shows.)