SUMMERWORKS: Windows, Review by Evan Webber


Written by Liz Peterson

Directed by Alex Wolfson
Presented by Ammo Factory

Featuring: Amy Bowles, Chad Dembski and Liz Peterson

Presented at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace


August 14th 4:30pm

August 15th 8:30pm

Ammo Factory works on staging depictions of what goes on in the mind, and the company wears its late-century New York experimental theatre influences on its sleeve as it does so. Here - as, reputedly, there - there’s much showy bigness, and much slowness, and an overwhelming sense of the not-quite conscious calculation behind human actions. At their heyday Richard Foreman and Robert Wilson et al were (still are, I imagine) ruthless in their determination to look only inside their own skulls, and famously dominated every element of their productions. Despite the family resemblance, Ammo Factory doesn’t work like this. I can't prove that they don’t share a mind, but writer, director and designer at least inhabit different bodies; here there are a bunch of heads being drilled open and examined. Vast gulfs of subjectivity spill out of each and split the earth and the network of spindly or stately bridges that get erected is what might be called the consensual reality the performance represents. Windows might be read as a parable of this bridge-building – a group, a family, arriving, not without struggle, at a unified vision of reality – and after watching the play, their vision seems disturbingly, improbably, sane.

This would surely make Windows very interesting, yes, but the family’s struggle also has improbable dramatic weight, and is funny and sad and understandable, which means it is pleasurable to watch. On that note, Passe Muraille’s droopy masking is a poor frame for the precisely flimsy set and costumes, which, like everything else here, refer to totalizing impulses with a healthy mixture of respect and mocking humour – a combination, incidentally, very much like familial love.

On the subject of familiarity (or, over-familiarity): possibly the best, and least understood, lesson of the old avant-garde autocrats concerns the use of boredom: boredom, like flash-paper, is a special effect, and like most special effects, the instructions might be summarized “go big or go home”. Sometimes we get hung out in between with long spools of text that merely muddy the event, instead of creating the big space for the the mental fireworks the weird, heady show has lit the fuse on. My complaint is the fact that we’re not allowed to be bored enough. We have things to consider.

No comments: