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    2016-2017 reviews:

  •  REVIEW: ALEXANDRA BELLER: US

      Alexandra Beller: us
      Photo by Steven Schreiber
    "us" need to talk

    Alexandra Beller talks to "us" about life and death, and sex

    By QUINN BATSON
    Offoffoff.com


    From drape for coffin to standin for swaddled baby America, the American flag does quite a bit of work in Alexandra Beller's new bittersweet love poem to the United States, "us." Add plenty of implied sex and kinky sexual violence to blowup dolls, and George Bush's speeches have a new context in which to disturb. For forty minutes at Here Arts Center, Beller captivated and engaged an audience surrounding her on all four sides, with reactions ranging from mild horror to flat-out guffaws.

    ALEXANDRA BELLER: US
    Choreography by: Alexandra Beller.
    Directed by: Kristin Marting.
    Dancers: Alexandra Beller.
    Production design by: Karen Young.
    Art direction by: Karen Young.
    Sound design by: Alexandra Beller/Robert Poss.
    Costumes by: Karen Young.
    Lighting design by: Amanda Ringger.
    Production stage manager: Katy Cunningham.
    Technical Director: Ayumu "Poe" Saegusa.
     SCHEDULE
    HERE Arts Center June 21-24, 2007

      
    This show works well on so many levels. The boxing-ring staging and odd props keep the audience on its toes and engaged, and Beller's ability to juggle the attention of all 4 sides of people is impressive. Though there are quite a few clear visual references to recent notorious events, nothing feels forced or heavy-handed. When Beller isn't addressing the audience directly, usually as a non-responsive or nonverbal friend or lover, she is often interacting with the soundscape she has created, made up of recorded speeches, baby cries, aroused sounds, a scary machine/superconscience voice and various familiar and unfamiliar music.

    Beller tackles the often twisted issues of the sanctity of life, death, and personal choice, pointing out glaring inconsistencies in being both pro-life and pro-death penalty, or anti-stem cell research and pro-war, or virtuously religious and murderously intolerant. In a clever bit of performance, she doles out snippets of words to each of the four groups of audience to write down on pieces of paper provided, until, ultimately, if the person from each group chosen to read aloud has transcribed correctly, these fragments add up to disturbing quotes concerning some of these issues.

      
      Then there are the blowup dolls.
      
    Then there are the blowup dolls. When she first reaches into her onstage garbage can and pulls out an inflatable sex toy, it is subtle and unexpected, a piece of trash slowly turning into a person to be treated as trash. By the time more and more of these "people" show up onstage, in a pile, Abu Ghraib and the issue of treating people as casually expendable casualties of war have come into focus. Typical of the whole show, Beller does not dwell on any one thing long enough to make it onerous, but only long enough to make it sink into the audience before moving on to the next.

    The masterful timing and pacing of this show reflect Beller's years of experience as a performer, and must have been aided as well by director Kristin Marting. Lighting design by Amanda Ringger really enhances the show also. Taking the idea of love and relationship and sex and turning that into an exploration of one's relationship with a country is a concept that requires such an excellent performance to make it work. If anything, all the sexual gestures start to seem like overkill, but by the time Beller reaches into her shirt to provide a hungry baby America with breast milk as the show ends, it dawns that the resulting new life is something that "us" are responsible for nurturing into the future.

    JUNE 26, 2007
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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