Tuesday, March 31, 2009

People Without History

Photo/Michael Shmelling

Richard Maxwell's latest play, People Without History, is one of those works of "theater" in which plot is sacrificed to the almighty god of Awkward Philosophy. (It holds little interest for me.) It's the sort where characters may say or do anything at any moment, often because so little (beyond words) has been invested in them. It hardly helps that Maxwell's aesthetic--his New York City players are a mix of amateurs and professionals--is monotonic.

That's perhaps fine for Laura Furniss's empty set (five blackboard-looking walls open or close the space, projections lend it a rustic abandon), but the lack of distraction there is confounded by Furniss's costuming, which mixes chain hauberks and coifs with old-timey one-piece pajamas--not just people without history, but people without time, and ultimately, people without people. (There's also an anonymous character, with a do rag and biker beard, who remains mute for most of the show.) And while much of the "plot" revolves around reactions to the arrival of Alice (Tory Vazquez), the solitary female in the ruins of a masculine battlefield, the choice to prounounce rather than converse makes the enigmatic nature of the show a rather brittle affair.

The strongest bits come from Rhobert (Jim Fletcher), who has faked an injury so as to explain his cowardly retreat from battle ("I have fake blood on my crotch," he whispers). His motive is clear--he wants to fuck Alice, for without that, what is there? Sadly, Maxwell answers this: "Darkness is always," says one character, who has for some reason begun to play a horn. "Doesn't mean it's always dark." As line after similarly unqualified line wafts out, People Without History grows even more dark.

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