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    Miguel Gutierrez and emperor Ishmael Houston-Jones in Miguel Gutierrez: And lose the name of action
    Photo by Julieta Cervantes
    Miguel Gutierrez and emperor Ishmael Houston-Jones

    About that brain

    Miguel Gutierrez' And lose the name of action, at BAM


    If Miguel Gutierrez intended to illustrate what it might be like to lose your mind, he did a damn good job, in And lose the name of action at BAM Fisher. And if what we were watching onstage was indeed someone's mind, it was a strange and sexy place, a little heavier on the strange.

    Choreography by: Miguel Gutierrez.
    Produced by: Thomas Benjamin Snapp Pryor.
    Dancers: Michelle Boulé, Hilary Clark, Luke George, Miguel Gutierrez, K.J. Holmes, Ishmael Houston-Jones, with Paul Duncan onscreen .
    Sound design by: Neal Medlyn.
    Costumes by: David Tabbert, assisted by Matt Kessler.
    Lighting design by: Lenore Doxsee.
    Production stage manager: Natalie Robin.
    understudy: James McGinn.
    dramaturg: Juliana F. May.
    video: Boru O'Brien O'Connell, Jimin Brelsford.
    BAM Fisher, Fishman Space
    December 4-8, 2012

    A queen enters, conferring with and pronouncing quietly from the contents of a white box that glows when she opens it. A friendly emperor follows, guiding us through breathing and relaxation exercises to ease our entry into this odd place. A dapper man, in infinity whitespace, talks soundlessly on screens above and around us. We will watch this triad of Mother, Father and ghost disintegrate, but all is apparently fine at first, with a smooth light coming from the white-parachute, inverted-mushroom braincloud over our heads.

    Program notes speak of the mind/body connection and the cognitive damage Gurierrez' own father suffered. "And lose the name of action" is the last line of a Shakespeare phrase about thought derailing action. Nothing really explains the goings-onstage.

    Miguel Gutierrez: And lose the name of action
    Photo by Julieta Cervantes

    The brain's actors, seated among us on white chairs in the first ring of seating, proceed into a multilayered song, in unison or at odds. It is silly and sublime, cartoon voices mixing with holy falsettos in a mesh of sound, but it clearly ends with the unclear question "Boots, are you here?"

    A sturdy protagonist, perhaps the emperor's younger self, does a slow and stately mirror dance with the emperor, and then an especially attractive actor begins to dance, or fall gracefully across the space, inspiring others to join her.

    From here, things flow and devolve in shifting tableaux and costume changes, at a regally slow pace. We begin to hear as well as see the overhead ghost, who may be the character the brain is presenting to the world, or thinks it is presenting to the world; his beard, demeanor and voice give him gravitas. We also hear gradually more noise, with distant echoes and ethereal prettiness giving way to roaring echoes and dense cacophony.

    There is also a gradual losing and loosening of clothes and inhibitions. This is done decorously and quite stylishly, but eventually the emperor really is wearing no clothes, and the queen's outfit is only slightly less transparent.

      queen K.J. Holmes and man Paul Duncan in Miguel Gutierrez: And lose the name of action
      Photo by Julieta Cervantes
      queen K.J. Holmes and man Paul Duncan
    All the actors regroup midway for a two-person discussion of cognition and reality and the philosophy of perception, with all present reading from scripts and taking the lines of one or the other debaters. All break into canned laughs after almost every line, which is funny, then unnerving, until eventually everyone is yelling "fuck you" over and over. Discussion over, breakdown blossoming.

    Actors begin to work against each other, queen setting up chairs, emperor swatting them down, until orderlies escort him away.

    One absurd and striking moment has a sexy one roaring with anger and frustration as she apparently forgets how sex works and begins gnawing on her larger playmate, who giggles at the torment.

    Meanwhile, the onscreen superactor has gone from discussing the absolute power of the ship captain, to saying something then its opposite, to confusing himself... to uttering "empty", which the stage has become.

    DECEMBER 8, 2012

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