“The book of the show is not yet written,” Faye Driscoll intones as she welcomes a small group of audience members onto the stage. The show’s interactive opening sequence has the feel of a ritual: the performers sit chanting in a clean, gallery-esque space, surrounded by neatly-arrayed props and costumes. Audience members are invited to stand around an altar-like table and to contribute a word or two to be used later in the performance. Since this operation, completed in small groups, takes a not insignificant amount of time, spectators can relax into the cycle of chanting and watch the precise, repetitive tableaux created by performers as they move from their separate squares to pose at the front of the stage.
From this clean, ceremonial beginning, Play erupts into an ever-more-complex and chaotic spectacle involving the origin story of a folk-hero-like figure, an anti-Trump punk rock anthem, and a celebratory dance that welcomes a selection of audience members onstage. Like the pre-show poses, the pieces of the story form and re-form throughout, bringing elements of narrative, design and movement into new contexts and abandoning others, as if to suggest that nothing keeps its original form and function for long. In the end, the theatre is plunged into darkness and focus is narrowed to one small light and the sound of Driscoll’s voice reading statements of hope, longing, and celebration.
Like the previous installment in this proposed trilogy, Thank You For Coming: Attendance (see the Contemporary Performance write-up here), Play has a loose, improvisational feel that belies its closely choreographed, meticulously rehearsed plan. It eschews theatrical illusion for the intimacy of inviting its audience to experience and co-create. In both pieces, we see Driscoll herself break down and re-form the elements of the playing space–in Attendance, a stage made of benches becomes audience seating; in Play, clean, formal walls are unceremoniously dragged away to open up a more casual, messy environment. Play continues Attendance’s work of re-defining the artists’ relationship to the audience, inviting the audience to experience the feeling of co-creation, and to explore the way community can be created through witnessing performance.
Photo: Julieta Cervantes