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Jack Anderson

Comic-Book Commedia


Julie Atlas Muz: ''Divine Comedy of an Exquisite Corpse''
Performance Space 122, 150 First Avenue, East Village
Closed Feb. 11, 2007
Information: (212) 352-3101
Reviewd by Jack Anderson, Feb. 13, 2007

It's hard to guess how much Julie Atlas Muz wished her ''Divine Comedy of an Exquisite Corpse'' to reflect Dante's ''La Divina Commedia.'' Unless I misinterpreted its symbolism, it did not appear to parallel Dante's narrative exactly. Yet Muz's heroine did embark upon a perilous journey, although one that never took her far beyond the Inferno. Along the way came countless adventures, most of them preposterous and all occurring at a frantic pace. The results resembled a melodramatic action-packed, yet often funny, comic book.

Created by Muz and directed and developed by Kate Valentine, ''Divine Comedy'' began with Muz's character being born (or, conceivably, reborn) in a carrying bag. Standing erect, she tried to strut glamorously, but had to battle strong winds. Slides of landscapes and what appeared to be an avian army crossed the backdrop in the production designed by Muz and Leonel Valle. Then Muz got trapped inside a smoke-filled room, while a persistent haunting melody in Raul Vincent Enriquez's sound score drove her mad.

A baby doll fell from the heavens and, after gazing at it in perplexity, Muz stuffed it in a freezer, preened bare-breasted before a mirror, and stripped totally nude. Clothed once again, she mixed a drink and sprouted multiple sets of arms while lighting several cigarettes simultaneously. Minutes later, she stabbed herself, bleeding red ribbons and vomiting beads.

Perhaps as a result of the drink, she staggered uncertainly and gazed into a mirror at several faces not her own. Gun in hand, she battled a battalion of devilish creatures (related to the bird army, perhaps), lurked and crawled like a guerrilla fighter, posed with her gun in a manner both aggressive and erotic and, finally, trapped inside a labyrinth of mirrors, sank to her death (or was this a prelude to rebirth?) while Rachmaninoff's booming ''Prelude in C-sharp Minor'' resounded around her.

Perhaps only Muz herself could explicate this epic, although events did hint at some sort of moralistic significance. Yet the moral remained elusive. Nevertheless, like many comic books, ''Divine Comedy'' offered one hair-raising adventure after another.

As for the title's ''exquisite corpse,'' that phrase could describe Ms. Muz's protagonist. It's also the term for a pastime popular among the Surrealists in which someone sketched something on a paper, folded it over, and let the next player add something of his or own, but with no one knowing what the complete design would be. Presumably, Muz and Valentine knew from the outset how their production would develop. Yet, with her collection of bizarre bits and pieces, Muz may have been pointing out that no one knows what may happen in this world or the next.

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