Charles Mee's plays often toy with our perception of time and space, forcing us to readjust our expectations as we travel through his twisted psyche. In bobrauschenbergamerica, he imagines what the iconic pop artist would have created if he had become a playwright instead. The result is a array of disparate images that never completely come together in any kind of narrative way but nonetheless provide a wonderfully dynamic collage of arresting images and rare family photos of the artist as a young boy.
Dialogue is secondary and is used sparsely but effectively, especially in a scene where a wife confesses to her husband that she's not in love with him anymore. What could easily come off as trite and sentimental becomes a thoughtful statement on the transitory quality of love and the insanity it sometimes takes to love another person. We are all just animals at our core after all, as he points out. SITI Company associate artistic director Ellen Lauren plays the wife with a biting detachment imbued with maternal warmth; it is reminiscent of a great Edward Albee character. Director Anne Bogart is at the top of her game throughout this intermissionless show that includes a slip and slide strip tease, binge eating, dance numbers and a visit from a psychotic Domino's delivery boy - keeping the chaos perfectly balanced until the final blackout.
Across town Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi was making his own abstract glee in support of his debut solo album Go, which creates rich sonic landscapes. His tour, which made a stop in New York this past weekend, is augmented by stunningly inventive visual backdrops. Gothic animated black and white images artfully moved across a massive screen and many smaller screens on stage, creating mini stories to complement the orchestrally rich songs performed with only a handful of musicians. Dark trees stood ominously behind two animals chasing each other across the screen. From their outlines it was hard to tell if they were playing or hunting, but maybe that was the point, drawing a fine line between violence and love as Mee does with his married couple who almost destroy each other but are inexplicably drawn together nonetheless.
There's a moment during the concert when the images are engulfed in flames, suggesting there is something darker lingering beneath the surface. For most of the show, though, there's a genuinely warm and almost transformative power to the music that's remarkably similar to Sigur Ros (currently on hiatus), combining classical melodies and angelic voices with highly syncopated beats and decidedly rock sensibility. While he didn't bring out his famous bow for guitar, Jonsi sat in on piano for a number of tracks and participated with the whole band in a rousing percussive section that had the packed crowd at Terminal 5 moving joyfully with abandon despite the close quarters.
bobrauschenbergamerica plays at Dance Theater Workshop through May 16.