Wednesday, January 14, 2009

COIL - "Trash Warfare"

I'm having some trouble expanding/collapsing the review below, so if anybody can help, great. The gist is, I accepted a press ticket to review "Trash Warfare," and then later learned--after posting the following review--that the show was not open to review. Considering that this would be cached anyway and possible to search out, I chose to add this disclaimer and to attempt to hide the review below, simply as a living record. (I'm also not sure why this, out of all the COIL Festival shows, is now "closed" to review, especially since the company has performed it for press at other venues.) In any case, if anyone knows how to hide the text below, please let me know.

Read the review...

It's hard to believe that a show could seem so dated, so quickly, but watching Trash Warfare, a revival of La Femme Est Morte (Or Why I Should Not F%!# My Son) is like watching Britney Spears during her "Blackout" phase. The pop-cultural reference is fair, considering that The Shalimar's production is a celebrified retelling of Seneca's classic Greek tragedy, Phaedra, assembled from found text and "classic" pop songs like "My Humps." Trash Warfare isn't exactly falling down on stage, but it's far from the energetic frenzy of a show that went to Edinburgh in 2007. That's a shame, for the ensemble's mania was what kept the show on its feet (think of the declining Fast and the Furious franchise).

Much as I'm loathe to frame it in non-theatrical context, America is different today and Trash Warfare is exactly the same. In 2007, more people may have visited YouTube for cheap shots of Britney than of war reportage from Iraq, but in 2008, Barack Obama was America's biggest celebrity (take that LOLcatz), and Britney was a recovering tragic hero. Writer/director Shoshona Currier has made a few cosmetic corrections, but the play has lost its punch--not great for a show that opens with some sparring, climaxes with a father/son boxing match, and cools down with some good old fashioned (exaggeratedly graphic) deaths.

What's still interesting about Currier's blend is the way in which the paparazzi and celebrities are equally shameless (the "chorus" girls walk around in gold lame; Phaedra flashes us, gorges on donuts, and takes care of her pilates all at once) and equally dependent (Phaedra's publicist "leaks" information to the press; the press "leaks" information to Theseus). The choreography is still clever, too, even if it's performed at half-speed--it manages to turn a crucifixion into a dance move. There's also something to be said for the physicalization of some of the more casual excerpts, something to be said for what happens when subtlety and tact are thrown out the window. Then again, if you shoot a celebrity in the forest and nobody cares, did it happen?

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