Wednesday, January 14, 2015

YOUARENOWHERE: YouAreNowHere, YouAreNowhere, yoUarEnoWherE, yOuArEnOwHeRe, youarenowhere

"Time really does just go away."


Early on in YOUARENOWHERE I was mad that it was going to end. It had hardly begun and already I was lamenting that at some point I would have to leave this delicious theater bubble. I didn't want to. I wanted to curl up in a ball and refuse to leave the theater until it was performed again. And that was well before the show bent everything I thought I knew out of shape. It's rare for me to be so easily won over so soon in a show but I fell hard for this one.

Basically I want to tell you to go see this show without knowing anything about it. Read nothing. Just go. Talk to me after.

NOT REALLY SPOILERS BUT YOU SHOULD NOT READ THIS UNTIL YOU'VE SEEN THE SHOW.

For posterity I needed to write this paean to an unusual show about time, physics, and an understanding of self. It's rare for a show to genuinely surprise me anymore and to do so multiple times within the show such that I wasn't sure what had happened to me but I was keen for it to happen again.

Andrew Schneider's work starts with some admin. Maybe the sound isn't working. A false start. A restart. Is this the show? Is this actually happening? My theater skepticism was on high alert.  A loud sigh from the performer after the music cue re-started made me wonder.  It got a big laugh.
You can't fool me Andrew Schneider!  Oh but you can.  It's cute how wrong you were, Nicole.

The show starts in earnest. Schneider is shirtless, wearing a head mic, and with wires coming from packs on his biceps.  Schneider starts talking about time. It's a topic often explored in theater--how can we look at a moment in time, the physics of time, and what it means to us. There's something sexy about theoretical physics that makes it a good match for artists.  What is the present if time is racing by us? Recently I've seen work by Greg Wohead, Daniel Kitson, and even something like Constellations which just opened Broadway that look at various aspects of this.

Schneider's performance piece is both a physical and emotional exploration of those ideas.  On the surface, there are clear manifestations of time.  A clock appears.  As Schneider speaks to us sound drifts in and out.  Words speed up and slow down.  The clock spins out of control as the sound cracks and the lights flicker.  We have all these cues we use to feel ourselves in relation to time.  Most of the time we are unaware of them.  But here Schneider shows them to us and we cannot not think about them.  He's trying to say things and we cannot hear him.  At other times we hear him but cannot see him.  He's hurled through the space and this interaction with his environment is hostile.  He is struck down to the ground by sound or light.  We're in an unstable, shifting world and there are not too many landmarks.   But I cannot look away.

In all this we start to consider what does time look like, how does it feel to experience time loss, time travel, or just time.  Time is after all a construct.  For this work, time becomes an object and the space Schneider is in.  But his battle with time is what we experience as well.  At moments he's romanticizing time, joking about it, and then being fucked with by it.  And it's charming and disarming.  The writing and staging is funny and self-aware.  There is something wistful and romantic about his script--where he sings along to Lonesome Town with Ricky Nelson and talks about missed connections, and the "map of ourselves."   The sonic reverb, strobes, layering and repetition of voices, music, and light somehow is entirely engaging.  It doesn't feel like a technological crutch (say like Broadway's love of projection in the place of a set).  The technology (advanced and quaint--I was handed a CD at one point as a music prop) is a necessary aspect of the "theater."  I cannot look away.

But suddenly the audience (and Schneider) are thrust into a mind-melding scenario which upends any and all expectations. I don't mean theatrical expectations.  I mean my expectation for instance that there is gravity on Earth.  Somehow Andrew Schneider's work made it feel like we were in a place with no gravity and none of the rules I thought applied to this world applied anymore.  YEAH.  When was the last time that happened to you at the theater?

With a quick bit of stagecraft, I am agog. WHAT IS HAPPENING?  WHAT AM I SEEING?  WHO AM I?  AM I EVEN THERE ANYMORE? AHHHHHHHH.

I think I am catching on.  But I'm not.  The world that is created fractures and I'm totally adrift.  AND THEN THEY DOUBLE DOWN ON THE MINDFUCK.  For a moment I think I have a reprieve.  I'm shaken and confused and delighted and still totally disoriented. AND THEN THEY SURPRISE ME AGAIN WITH ONE MORE REVEAL.  Fucking hell.  I now just want to cling onto my seat for dear life because my brain has stopped functioning.  Am I dead?  Instead I feel everything.  I have never been so alive.

So much of the show's success comes from Schneider's earnestness and his generosity on stage.  I'm not sure what in his demeanor or his approach made me trust him implicitly, but I did.  Or how the dreamy, sweet, and delicate parts of the show still survived after all the seismic shifts.  But I hung on every word, rumble, and cataclysm.  The stagecraft is seamless to serve the thesis. And I never saw it coming.  I'm grateful.  As a 20 year veteran of going to the theater honest-to-goodness surprises are harder and harder to come by.  It was refreshing to live in the moment for a time.  Even if that moment is fleeting. Like all time.

I received a complimentary ticket to attend initially and purchased a ticket to attend a second time.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you wrote something about this so I can at least know that the technical difficulties were staged, because I found that was so naturalistic, even in my heightened theatre skepticism, I really couldn't tell. It was sort of astonishing because the technical difficulties were kinda foreshadowed with speaker crackles and then he references things being broken and getting fixed in his next monologue. And that is the least of the trickery.

    I don't want to talk about the mindfuck moment except to say I was so moved by it because of the story that was being told, because of the coup de theatre that actually served the story and the character. Where am I and what am I seeing; I'm so excited that theatre can still do that to me.

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