Saturday, January 19, 2008


If you've ever taken an acting class before, then you know the fundamentals are to (1) find ease in the role, (2) connect the character to yourself, (3) remain inside the given circumstances, and (4) to go on stage each night as if it were your first time. In recent years, Rotozaza has reconfigured their work to make it easy for its actors to do so: first, by using guest performers (as in last year's Doublethink, a far craftier and immersing work than the similar An Oak Tree), and now, with Etiquette, by making you, the audience, into the performers.

Their newest piece is a show for two people (tickets -- sold only as pairs -- are $20); the setting is the noisy and nontheatrical restaurant, Veselka; the stage is a table littered with props and two sets of stage manager-like headphones; and the performers are you, A, and your partner, B. I refuse to say much about this world because I strongly urge you to "see" it first-hand, and to speak about it would ruin many of the small, surprising moments. Better to simply get sucked into this Ibsen-like world, freed of the surrounding chatter and of the obligations of being right or wrong. Etiquette's small-scale epic, played out on a table, in a mound of blutac, and on the palm of one's hand, is a miniature must-see.

I will offer one final disclaimer, however: you'll be so involved in following the effortless directions, and so concentrated on your partner's every move, that you'll probably end up missing the show itself: when I went, we were both surprised to find the play over so suddenly, and although I can remember what I did, I can't say that I understood the character well enough to say why I did. This isn't a problem, for it truly speaks to the all-consuming effect of the show, but all I can think about when writing about Etiquette is how much I want to go back, even if it's just to watch two other anonymous performers. Though extended now through February 1st, it is almost entirely sold out -- so grab a thirty-minute slot, any thirty-minute slot, quickly!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just want to add that I had a ball at's not that the idea of audience-directed (or site-specific) performance is new, but that it's so damn entertaining in this context. Very much a diversion, of course, and as you say, it's hard to find depth in such an experience of Ibsen. But for sheer novelty, it's pretty fabulous!