LaMaMa has brought together the old and new work of Robert Patrick, a playwright they have supported since 1965. HI-FI | WI-FI | SCI-FI is a unique collection of five moving short plays directed by Billy Clark of CultureHub and Jason Trucco., who also designed the far-out sets. (An additional segment, which I did not get to see, is directed by Il Kyu Park, via live video link from Korea on certain dates.) Robert Patrick, gay theater pioneer and the man hailed by Samuel French in 1972 as “New York’s Most Produced Playwright”, gives the audience a variety of minimalist science-fiction thrills as, in the span of an hour, he takes us through different rooms (no chairs) in LaMaMa’s basement. In some rooms, there is live music and free beer.
Action is a play about a writer, narrated by flamboyant avant-garde veteran Agosto Machado. Machado, who sits at a table next to a typewriter, is not the protagonist, however. As he speaks, John Gutierrez, wearing only undies, emerges from a large pile of crumpled paper on the floor and takes his seat by the typewriter. The young, mostly bare writer struggles to write two pages a day, but this may be due to his gorgeous love interest, played by Yeena Sung. There is much romance, and yet Gutierrez does some one-handed typing even while his lover is on his lap. But who is actually writing the story? Action is performed with bongo accompaniment.
Camera Obscura, written around the time of the Vietnam War, is a shockingly modern piece about something resembling internet dating. Yeena Sung and John Gutierrez appear on two screens on opposite sides of the room. Despite technical challenges that sometimes slow down or blur the audio, the two performers tell each other how happy they are to be speaking and vow to meet in person and have a life together. The administrators of the service cut the pair’s chat off after two minutes; there is a huge line of people waiting for their turn. Joe Levasseur’s lighting design helps convey desperation poised to become hope.
|photo by Minji Lee|
Simultaneous Transmission is another amazing artistic statement about conflict. On video, Valois Mickens, Agosto Machado and John Gutierrez, dressed in white, speak of the dangerous enemy that threatens their way of life. On stage, the same performers, dressed in black and carrying black protest signs, express similar sentiments on behalf of their own faction. Both sides prepare for battle and demonstrate several of their destructive techniques. Do they realize who similar they and their adversaries are?
The final piece, Everything Is Plausible, is a world premiere. The host, Harold Lehman, informs us that in the year 2125, technology allows for constant remakes of old movies (an example is Gone With The Wind starring Meryl Streep). Way back in 2017, we are told, “All In The Mind” launched the film careers of Agosto Machado and Valois Mickens. Of course, this the perfect time to recreate part of the scene with equally prominent actors John Gutierrez and Yeena Sung, standing inside large cardboard appliance boxes. Soon enough, the author himself appears on video and sings some of his poetic wisdom for us.
This is a lively evening of pieces spanning decades, which, thanks to the video and streaming technology involved, feel very fresh and timely. Technical Director Jesse Ricke and composers John Dyer and John King create a wonderfully immersive environment. Hats off to LaMaMa for again showcasing the work of Robert Patrick. His play Kennedy’s Children, which was on Broadway in the 1970s, has a revival in the works.