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Paulanne Simmons

“Ship of Fools” Takes the Audience on a Strange Journey

Ship of Fools
Directed by Jessica Scott and Eamonn Farrell
145 6th Avenue
Opened Oct. 12, 2016
Wed. thru Sun. at 7pm, Fri. & Sat. at 10:30pm
Tickets: 35 www.here.org
Closes Oct. 22, 2016
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Oct. 19, 2016

For those of us who don’t remember our Plato, “Ship of Fools” is an allegory from the “Republic.” On this ship, the captain is a little deaf and blind, and not a terribly good navigator. The sailors are equally incompetent, but each one insists he should be allowed to steer.

Eventually they mutiny. Those who took part in the mutiny are rewarded with respected positions on the ship, while the others are abused. However, Plato insists, the true pilot must take command of the ship, whether the others like it or not.

For Plato, the ship is the state. And although in this election year, that’s a tempting interpretation of the allegory, the creators of “Ship of Fools,” a multidisciplinary theater piece at HERE, had something else in mind. In this case, there are only passengers, and they are the members of the audience, who sit on a revolving platform that takes them past a phantasmagoria of deranged women.

Conceived by Jessica Scott and directed by Scott and Eamonn Farrell, “Ship of Fools” employs puppetry, live music and movement. It begins with a woman lying in bed in France’s all-female asylum, Saltpetriere, and ends with the deranged dancing of a pantsuit that reminds us uncomfortably of Hillary Clinton.

In between, the audience sees a female puppet disemboweled, witnesses speeches by the likes of Jodie Foster and Whitney Houston, and watches a weird dance of puppet legs. Add to this the unsettling lighting of Ayumu “”Poe” Saegus, and “Ship of Fools” becomes nothing less than a kind of nightmare from which there is little chance for escape.

“Ship of Fools” assaults the senses much as Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty did back in the early 20th century. And like Theatre of Cruelty, it shocks us into confronting those aspects of ourselves and our society we would much prefer stayed buried.


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