To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Jeffrey Wells from SuperGroup shares his perspective on Thursday night’s Out There performance of El Pasado es un Animal Grotesco (The Past Is a Grotesque Animal) by Mariano Pensotti. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!
In Lightsey Darst’s recent article about the Out There series, she brings up the question of the demystification of a performance after one has experienced it. She mentions fleeing a talkback “before the production utterly disappeared for me under the weight of explanation.” That somehow in our effort to understand a performance better by asking questions, reading program notes, learning how/when/why/where/by whom it was made, that an audience member’s actual experience gets clouded over. That being said, read this at your own risk.
Tending to agree with Lightsey (though I’ve really been enjoying the SpeakEasy events this year!), I also like to enter a performance as context-less as possible, especially when it’s someone’s work I’ve never experienced before, as was the case with Mariano Pensotti’s El Pasado es un Animal Grotesco (The Past Is a Grotesque Animal). I did not read the program notes, which maybe outs me as a novice performance writer (that’s a lie, I’m not even a performance writer at all, except that I’m writing about this performance). I did not google Mariano Pensotti. I did not watch any videos or read any articles, interviews, or transcripts (ack! so much information!) about the show in full. I did read the opening sentences of something that described someone’s association with the set as being dollhouse-like (I think — don’t quote me on that), which now probably explains why from the moment the show started I was flooded with memories of my sister’s room, our toy house with the removable cardboard roof exposing the small cubicled rooms of my imaginary doll family. And from there to my sister’s spinning ballerina jewelry box. And from there to the Lazy Susan my mom purchased from a wood-worker in the upper peninsula of Michigan. And from there to the countless family dinners with “Susan” holding court (and condiments) right there in the center of the table. I now wonder how my experience would have been altered had I never had the dollhouse association. I certainly was engulfed in personal nostalgia from the get-go.
I imagine if you’ve made it this far, I may have already somehow crushed your experience with the weight of my explanation. But maybe that’s not so bad after all? Maybe you had a Lazy Susan too? Or a mom?
This is a play that tells the stories of Pablo, Dana, Mario, Vicky, and Laura. Sometimes things happen to them that are interesting, and sometimes the things that happen to them feel normal. Sometimes those things are the same. Some of the things that happen to them you might relate to, and some maybe not. They are people living in the decade between the late nineties and the late aughts, and so are/were we.
As I write this it is sounding trite, and I’m not quite sure that is the tone I’m shooting for. But there is something about this performance, maybe the realistic performance styles, maybe the use of narration, or maybe just the monotony of the rotating set, that made me feel everything was very normal. Sometimes that normality got a little tiresome, but more often than not, it left me feeling curious and moved.
It may have been the influence of the “Global Visionaries” subtitle for this year’s Out There, but I couldn’t escape the human connectivity I felt. It feels silly to say but everything happening felt totally within the realm of my possibility. Even the most obscene moments, punctuated by the vocalizations of audience members around me, held an easy inevitability for me, which I liked. Dramatic, kinky, harrowing events happen right there with everything else, it only depends on which way they’re/we’re facing.
All these events were narrated, as if they had already happened, or as if they might happen someday. Come to think of it, I can’t actually recall the verb tenses used. (I wished I spoke Spanish — I’m a slow reader). These were stories of the lives people have, the lives they want, the lives they plan for, the lives they’ll never get, the lives they end up with. Which in the end left me with a nonplussed feeling that somewhere someone is thinking of a life that looks like mine and the life that I am thinking of is already being lived. Fiction is fact is fiction is fact.
What did you think, feel, see, do? And what about that attractive guy that kept coming out with the file boxes? What was he all about?