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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Theater Review: Play straddles line of art, nonsense

culture@dailylobo.com

When you walk out of “Night and Day,” you’re going to be asking yourself, “What the hell did I just watch?”

But the real question is whether or not that’s a good thing.

It’s good to be challenged. It’s good to be uncomfortable and accosted by art. The bad thing is that art can also be pretentious bullshit.

“Night and Day” can be colorlessly described as “dance theatre.” This play is about 95 percent dance and 5 percent theatre — or, if you prefer, “talking.” For the full 80 minutes or so of the first act, you’re bombarded with what boils down to nonsensical babble.

You’re treated to a lounge singer summarizing about five interrelated Greek myths. Then two logs are removed from briefcases and smacked lackadaisically with axes, to a background of people talking about eating. Later, a naked eating orgy.

We then move on to demonic war stories and a suited man talking about human history, a woman in a spider-heart-cage wheeled on stage while talking about Greek mythology, sky booze descending from the ceiling only to be drank and spat violently like an alcoholic SeaWorld, which turns into white people meticulously moshing.

Then we see men stomping chairs to the silliest band in the world, Rammstein, and, of course, a man in bondage gear cavorting about while singing “O Fortuna” in a shrill falsetto.

It was actually more fun writing down these quick descriptions of everything as a means to remember it all. There is so much of it that while it can be engrossing, sometimes annoying ideas and images, much of it evaporates from my short-term memory upon the show’s completion.

It’s like the run-on sentence of a junkie describing a fever dream. A little of this kind of theatre goes a long way, but here it’s just too damn much stimulation: too many ideas and images, all at a lightning-fast pace. But there is no time to catch your breath, to digest or make connections, of which there are desperately few. For the most part, it seems overindulgent.

The second act is considerably more coherent, presenting a strong visual theme of a changing monochromic light that engulfs the stage, arranged with motifs of a bouquet of pastoral kindness.

Specificity is what is being created here. The chorus cast of sixteen actors zoom on and off stage by the second, packing the space with many simultaneous actions and intentions. What are our monkey brains and forward-facing binocular vision intended to focus on? Beyond the simple idea of overstimulation, there is the simple question of “Why?” If there is such a titanic effort of choreography and intensity, why do something so abstract? The answer, it seems, as it often is with art like this, is “because we can.”

It is difficult to even really critique art so obtuse. It’s bodily movement by means of abstracted emotion and images. It’s impossible to say something was “bad” or “wrong,” since it seems every possible thing is up for grabs to be used or performed. Every possible “failure,” from an actor’s performance to malfunctioning technical design and multimedia might simply be “part of the show,” which can be entirely meta in an interesting way, or frustrating and without consequence or responsibility for itself.

With that in mind, it is nearly impossible to say whether it is “good” or not. While it would be amusing if the lawless artsy entropy of the first act was suddenly followed up by a second act of something like some straight-and-clean Neil Simon, “Night & Day” is a testament to the exploration of boundaries and a rebellion against limitation.

Night and Day


by Charles L. Mee


Directed by Bill Walters

UNM’s Rodey Theatre

Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m.

$15 General, $12 Faculty and Seniors, $10 Staff and Students

For More Information:

(505)925-5858 or visit

www.unmtickets.com