'Show Your Face!' leads off latest 'Out There'
Photo courtesy Betontanc/Umka.lv
The Walker Art Center's Out There 2011 opened last night with the sometimes perplexing, but overall enthralling Show Your Face! The piece, a collaboration between two Eastern Europe companies (Betontanc from Slovenia and Umka.lv from Latvia), merges puppetry, movement, high theatrics, and music into a piece that looks back at the not-so-good days of the 20th century.
At the center of this is a nameless, faceless Everyman, brought to life by the seven performers as a tiny, empty snowsuit. The dirty-white costume quickly becomes the focus on the dark stage, which is often only illuminated by the lamps worn on the actors' heads.
The company takes on numerous roles throughout and manipulates the low-tech effects--puppets made of pieces of discarded plastic or a wall represented by a multi-colored Slinky--all which illustrate our snowsuit's endless attempt to escape his pursuers.
It's the kind of piece that could come off as insufferably pretentious, but there's enough awareness from the performers ("Sometimes I feel like a puppet," the snowsuit proclaims at one point) to help undercut some of these feelings. Meanwhile, the kaleidoscope of images is often stunning, such as when a line of skeleton-thin puppets, with a representation of our Everyman at the back, slowly walk into a tide of red fabric.
At one point, the snowsuit has been captured and put in prison. At first, the scene gets scattered laughs as he mimes the outlines of his cell or is forced to go through an invasive, TSA-like pat down. Even as the torture starts there is something ludicrous about the proceedings. But the torture doesn't stop. A series of cinematic black outs show the passage of time as the character is psychologically and physically beaten. It's as unrelenting as any graphic depiction could be and its power comes from the character's lack of identity. It's easy to see any of the millions of people who have been--or are--trapped in this situation. It's easy to see yourself.
Show Your Face! continues Friday and Saturday.
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