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All Lifetime in a Day
April 4 to April 21, 2013
La MaMa E.T.C. (Ellen Stewart Theater), 66 East Fourth Street
Presented by La MaMa E.T.C. in association with Witness Relocation
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM; Sundays at 2:30 PM
$25 general admission, $20 seniors and students
Box office (212) 475-7710, www.lamama.org
Reviewed by Kelly Aliano April 5, 2013
L-R: Saori Tsukada, Javier Perez and Vanessa Koppel. Photo by Adele Bossard.
If a play about my life is ever commissioned--which will never happen, of course--I want it to be written by Charles L. Mee, if for no other reason than I believe his style of theatermaking would indulge this selfish fantasy. This is not because he would create a realistic portrait of my existence on this planet: quite the contrary. I would want him to write of my life because he has the unique talent of creating art from the utterly mundane and evoking laughter about even the most serious of topics. Such is the case in Witness Relocation's brilliant "Eterniday," a new Mee play currently being presented at La MaMa. The play is, at turns, thought-provoking, laugh-out-loud funny, bizarre, and awe-inspiring. This theatrical experience is one-of-a-kind and certainly not-to-be-missed.
L-R: Javier Perez, Mike Mikos, Sean Donovan, Wil Petre, Vanessa Koppelm Nikki Calonge, Saori Tsukada and Kate Lee. Photo by Jonathan Slaff
This play, which tries to encompass the complexity of human experience into one exceptional day, cannot easily be summed up in a "plot summary." It includes narration, dialogue, movement, dance, lighting, and film to tell its story. It is more reflection on theme than a linear narrative. In each of its three major sections, morning, afternoon and night, the performers muse on various aspects of life--such as illness, desire and art--both through their words and through their bodies. Indeed, each moment is more delightful than the next, putting both the basic, like love, and the obscure, such as traffic circles, into new and complicated contexts.
Witness Relocation in "Eterniday" at La MaMa E.T.C. Photo by Adele Bossard
The performers are all exceptional, especially in their physicality. The actions are precise and specific and even when I was not entirely sure what the movements meant, I was certain the actors knew what they were trying to convey. I felt as though the excellent direction, by Dan Safer, did wonders to expose multiple perspectives on the same issue, at times even simultaneously. The spoken text is witty and charming, while still being meaningful in its presentation.
Additionally, the use of music and canned footage--teaching us of lost islands and unknown peoples--punctuate the actions in unexpected ways. Nothing is what you would expect and yet everything comes across as being exactly as it should be. The individual elements of this production are all compelling but the sum of the whole far surpasses its parts in terms of artistry. This production is particularly magical in that I am certain I could not have created it; I would never have thought of the combinations presented therein.
L-R: Wil Petre, Vanessa Koppel, Kate Lee, Javier Perez. Photo by Adele Bossard
Of particular note is a "do clothes make the man" speech, which is expertly underscored by the rest of the company changing their outfits off on the side of the stage. This monologue sets up one of the best segments of the play: a musing on "Philoctetes" and its connection to the contemporary Chris Brown/Rihanna romantic drama. This throws into relief a common motif in this production: the importance of human connection and interaction. It also highlights one of the best aspects of this play: its equal valuing of the academic and the popular--or of Van Gogh and hip-hop--in the same theatrical world.
Mee paints with both broad strokes and subtle details to present his philosophizing in this play. Each time I see one of his works, I walk away with a newfound appreciation for both theater and life. "Eterniday" is no exception; life is somehow richer through the lens of this play. I often wonder if theater can still find original ways to contemplate the human condition. In this play, Mee proves that we have only begun to skim the surface of the human experience. And, most importantly, Mee reminds us to always wait for dawn, when things are at their brightest.
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