Sunday, July 26, 2009

Undergroundzero Festival: "3!"

Here's the thing about 3!, which thankfully closed last night at the Undergroundzero Festival: it's not a play. Many things happen on stage--often at once--and these scenes are randomly projected onto a screen by men with boom mics and cameras, but Doris Mirescu's work remains trapped as "a multimedia experiment." Jay Scheib has already been here and done that, though someone already intimately familiar with Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Third Generation (on which 3! is based) might be morbidly curious in the results.

This tone of this review, incidentally, comes even after cutting Mirescu some slack for having the balls to experiment this wildly in the first place. The problem is that the uncompromisingly anarchic nonsense, coupled with what Mirescu interprets in Fassbinder's work as chaotic melodrama, makes it impossible to appreciate--let alone notice--some of the finer moments. The girl vomiting in the recessed bathroom catches our eye, but this only draws our attention away from two other characters, lounging on a sofa in various states of dress (and distress), which in turn is pulling our eye away from a girl lying atop a dinner table, listlessly chewing on bread. Someone is talking, but it's hard to make out who. It's a nice effect, in that the actors aren't performing to an audience, so much as being captured in "the wild," but without a frame or a context, it's soon all just noise. It is possible to be both vertiginous and lucid, as with a movie like Irreversible; with 3, however, the constant rapes are just Something That Happens.

This desensitizing makes a certain sort of sense, given the idea of a casual collective turning to terrorism in their free time. Violence means nothing to them, so why should their orgiastic approach make any sense to us? Of course, this sort of Negative Theater, harsh and unconcerned with the audience, tends to make the audience respond in the same way toward it. So far as the audience can tell, Suzanne (Zoe Anastassiou) allows her boss, PJ Lurz (Joel Repman), to molest her. The Inspector (Mark Lechner), pursuing the address of this terrorist cell, winds up driving Bernhard (David White) to stop with the darts long enough to drop trou and demand that he just get on with it and actually fuck him already. At some point, Paul (Anthony LaForgia) is killed; the for-some-reason cross-dressing August (Florin Penisoara) decides that Franz (Zack Helwa) set him up. Hilde, Ilse, and Petra (Jennifer Blair-Bianco, Kate McConaghy, and Zehra Tas) sort of just wander around, blending in with one another.

Ultimately, Mirescu's choice to have an already frenetic show be edited and shot just as crazily is what pushes 3! too far. Imagine using an irritated python to grasp for straws that are blowing in the wind: everything is so aggravated and unwieldy that it becomes impossible to take anything (save for confusion) away from the show--ahem, experiment. In this world where everyone and everything is an object, the show has about as much drama as the cap guns the cast wield: "It's enough," yells one actor, over and over again, for one reason or another. Indeed.

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