Sunday, April 30, 2017

Review: Making a Surreal and Just World

By Ed Malin

Ildiko Nemeth and New Stage Theatre Company have a new avant-grade and socially relevant show called The Rules, which draws on the play of the same name by Charles Mee as well as "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison. The show features an ensemble of provocatively-dressed characters who are by turns colonial aristocrats and oppressed indigenous persons and other minorities. The soundtrack includes Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, and the Weimar cabaret stylings of Mischa Spoliansky.
An Indian Grandma (Gloria Miguel, a founding member of Spiderwoman Theater) calmly theorizes about why Pre-Columbian natives of the Americas are seen by Europeans as wild animals needing to be tamed.  In this intriguing oration, the white man wants land and sees anyone taking up land as an animal, as opposed to the enslaved Negro laborer who would be seen as a machine.  Did the white man's disproportionate efforts to take the natives' culture away succeed? While the effete colonials (Adam Boncz, Zachary Alexander, Brian Linden, Dana Boll, Conor Weiss, Markus Hirnigel) acknowledge past difficulties (such as the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock possibly digging up their own dead to consume during times of famine), they are by now blasé. Unfortunately, the world that Western Capitalism and Imperialism created does not offer freedom even for its constituents.  The charming Danielle Hauser and Jeanne Smith demonstrate onstage how one is supposed to act as a woman in this world.
Tom Martin adds a most appropriate discourse from Ralph’s Ellison’s novel, “Invisible Man”, about the self-empowerment of African-Americans.  Brandon Olson’s character uses language that defines herself as female, and further broadens our minds about the role of women.  The masses rise in protest, to a background of slogans and posters that those who resist our current administration have seen and lived.  It is evidently time for new Rules to replace the Ten Commandments.  My favorite, of the Rules posited here, is “Do not destroy what you can’t create.”
New Stages has consistently delivered stimulating, surreal theater.  Brandon Olson’s costumes (and in some cases the lack thereof) create a rainbow of identities for the ensemble.  There are masks, and chains, and elegance throughout.  Federico Restrepo’s lighting is kind of hallucinatory. The play takes place amid diverse projections created by Ildiko Nementh, Alex Santullo and Chris Sharp which speak of truth and hope.