Off-Off-Broadway, Performance Art
Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street
Featuring Eric Dean Scott, Primoz Bezjak, and Gregor Gruden, and Gillian Chadsey
BOTTOM LINE: The perfect mix of abstract performances and traditional storytelling. Erika Latta's text and direction will make you think about thinking.
Delirium 27 is a mixed media semi-performance art piece about how the mind remembers, and if you've never experienced performance art, Delirium would be a good start. It's chronological enough that the story has a definite plot you can follow, and reoccurring characters moving towards a common goal. Don't worry, you won't find the annoying "I'm screamingly pointless, just like you!" attitude that some performance art has. However, the abstract set, movement, use of multimedia, and detours into the main character's mind diverges your attention from what's happening onstage, and makes you think more about your own interpretations of self and memory. To me, that's what good performance art pieces should do, and Delirium 27 does it well.
Delirium 27 is set inside the memory of Ode Black, played by Eric Dean Scott. The set is a permanent fixture of welded beams with industrial lighting, its few walls are used to project action as it happens live. It creates a dark and dusty room that smoothly transitions from the caves of Black's mind to his sweaty New York apartment. Black is being investigated for a crime, and the story switches back and forth between the investigation and consequent events in his apartment building. As the story unfolds, I get the feeling that Black's investigators are actually powers in his own mind trying to stir up images he'd rather not remember.
The most interesting parts of the story for me were not Black's journey but the comments about the human mind and memory, which the two interrogators mull over as well as facts projected onto several onstage screens. In our minds, we can have lively conversations where we say anything we want. We can commit heinous crimes, we can be heroes, and we can conquer or kill without consequence. It's comfortable in the mind; it's a place where we're invincible. But, the more we live in our heads the more numb and exposed we are to reality. One can create new memories, but you can't change the real ones. The memory is good at remembering images – not snapshots, but the way someone's hair looked on this one afternoon 10 years ago when the wind blew through it at this certain point in the day. Delirium explores these defining moments as they happen live, and just what about them makes them turn into memory.
Minimart, the group of designers who created the set, deserves some serious props for their excellent projections and design. Between these two components and the erratically detailed language in the script, I was strongly reminded of a production of Martin Crimp's Attempts On Her Life I once saw at the National Theatre in London. It was one of the most forward thinking shows I've ever seen, and I was happy to finally see abstract theater worthy of comparison being performed on this side of the pond. Delirium 27 is a smart show that makes you think; you will come to realizations about your own mind as you watch Ode Black unravel his.
(Delirium 27 is presented by WaxFactory and plays at The Abrons Arts Center, 466 Grand Street. Performances are March 24th through 28th, Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 5pm. The show runs one hour and thirty minutes, no intermission. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at www.theatermania.com, or by calling 212.352.3101.)