If one is going to call Edgar Allen Poe's Eureka a prose poem (it's an essay), one might as well call Hanon Reznikov's theatrical adaptation of it a play. But if one wants to be honest to the hard work that Judith Malina has put into the choreography, it's far closer to interpretive dance: Fuerzabruta for the New Age crowd.
After all, by placing the audience in the middle of the action--no, by asking them to participate in this highly ambitious re-creation of the world (it is not, unfortunately, as recreational as intended)--it becomes near impossible to absorb what is going on, and that lessens what Poe calls "the rhythmical creation of beauty in words." Instead, we are absorbed, traveling from the elemental stage (in which we are instructed to "embody" an element, as if we were in an Alexander class) through evolution (a slideshow that could be right out of Philip Glass's Koyaanisqatsi) and finally to what is meant to be an empowering moment of self-actualization--taking one's place in the universe--that unfortunately comes across as cheesily as the audience running on stage for Hair's "Let The Sunshine In."
The problem Eureka! faces--aside from the average theatergoer's unfamiliarity with Alexander von Humboldt and transcendental thought--is that these ideas are expressed with such sincerity that they cannot help coming off as utterly hokey up close. It's a wonderful thought to believe that one can change the world by dancing on stage with the cast of Eureka!--and that's assuming you don't simply feel uncomfortable as you are gently pushed and prodded to follow along--but it's quite naive, too. Still, it's a brave exploration, in line with the Living Theater's commitment to something greater than mere art: not quite "Eureka!" but perhaps worthy of a solemn "Aha!"
Friday, October 10, 2008