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    House of No More
    Photo by Jeffrey Ladd


    The medium is the message in Caden Manson's layered construction "House of No More."


    A blaze of color, sparkles and supremely impassioned melodrama greeted audience members who attended Caden Manson's newest theatrical concoction, House of No More. Clearly a comment on the over-the-top and disillusioning nature of media in today's society, the production incorporates a dizzying array of media trickery of its own.

    Company: Big Art Group.
    Choreography by: Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson.
    Directed by: Caden Manson.
    Dancers: Rebecca Sumner Burgos, Ebony Marie Hatchett, Mikeah Ernest Jennings, Heather Litteer, Amy Miley, Edward Otto .
    Costumes by: Matthew Flower.
    Lighting design by: William Cusick.
    Production stage manager: Linsey Bostwick.
    Video: Caden Manson.
    Text/Sound: Jemma Nelson.
    Technical direction: Michael Casselli.

    Related links: Official site
    Dance Theater Workshop
    219 West 19th St.
    Dec. 14-22, 2005

    The action, fast-paced and disorientating, was simultaneously presented onstage while being broadcast onto three large screens facing the audience. Encased in a blue screen arena (or in this case, green), the actors spew their lines into cameras connected to computers that magically situate the action into a digital backdrop. The method is reminiscent of old radio broadcasts created in front of a live audience where the magic behind all the sound effects was revealed. Manson's layering of cleverly conceived props, astutely manipulated video images and behind the scenes technology proved far more captivating than the storyline itself.

    House of No More goes beyond simply betraying its technological secrets. The program, while at times overdone, manages to touch upon numerous important dilemmas presented by our media saturated existence. Characters onstage are in duplicate and triplicate. Actors are constantly replaced with stand-ins and "stunt" doubles. While there is a superficial resemblence, the character doubles readily replace male actors for female and black for white. There is no sense of deep, individual identity. Self-definition, it seems, can be confused or even lost altogether in vying for the stereotype of commercially prescribed beauty and success.

    House of No More  
    Photo by Jeffrey Ladd  
    Manson and collaborator Jemma Nelson create characters who are deliberately two-dimensional, incapable of honesty and desperately in need of heartfelt introspection: Julia, the blond bimbo, wanna-be celebrity who has "yet to rise to the level of human interest"; Gary, Julia's hermaphroditic director/producer who gets overwhelmed by his own smarmy game of manipulation, and handsome Hugh who looks like he could have just walked off the set of Bay Watch; all deliver lines in their most fervent, soap-operatic emulation, which becomes down right grating by the end. Like mad-hap edits on a music video or commercial, the disjointed story line jumps from poolside to jungle fever to crazy, maniacal gun chase with hardly a moment for the audience to grasp why. Heavy-handed dialogue includes loaded gems like, "Who understands, really?", "The world is filled with hostile forces!", "I'm just a copy of a copy of a copy; it's all been seen before." Even while immersed in the media driven chaos, these lines ring forth as a distinct cry for help, only to be forgotten almost as soon as they are uttered, buried by the cascading onrush of the next big explosion or tantalizing sex scene.

      Clearly a comment on the over-the-top and disillusioning nature of media...
    The larger than life onscreen images dominate audience attention, even while the action is being presented onstage. Far from being a distraction, however, the onscreen orgy of visual and sound effects is, in fact, the intended focus. Despite unfolding in a live performance setting, the structure of House of No More emphasizes the irony that nothing is really worth watching unless it is amplified thru media. Viewers beware, however, because this manipulated image is anything but real. Donning his designer sunglasses, Hugh openly frets, "I don't trust the things I see anymore. The truth is, I feel lost." This poignant quip overtly mocks the very world of which he is a part. Indeed, most of the interaction between the characters happens only as a result of layered video images. On separate sides of the stage Hugh (with the help of a few stage hands) hands Julia a drink. Onscreen they appear inches apart.

    "House of No More" emphasizes the irony that nothing is really worth watching unless it is amplified thru media.  

    Manson's medium, no doubt, is his message. Anything but subtle, House of No More comments on the absurdity of life where electronic media simultaneously isolates, disconnects and detaches. At one point in the dialogue, the question is posed: "Have you ever wondered if you were meant for a higher purpose?" Higher than technological wizardry? That open-ended question begs an answer.

    DECEMBER 31, 2005

    Reader comments on House of No More:

  • so true   from Jacquelyn Hyde, Jan 3, 2006

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