"Imperative Flight" uses the works of Anais Nin as a taking-off point for three actresses' dreamlike exploration of femininity and sexuality.
By FRANK VIGORITO
Recycling text can have mixed results. This year's Fringe opener, the banal "Debbie Does Dallas," is an example of a show reusing a poorly written text and not making anything out of it. On the other end of the spectrum is a small show down Ludlow Street titled "Imperative Flight." The text is that of the brilliant sexual frontierswoman Anais Nin, and the performance is an elaborate combination of video, dance and text that results in an evocative, visionary piece of theater.
In a curbside interview, director Tori Schultz explained how she had read Nin's collection "Winter of Artifice" last summer and found that it changed her life. She then took to cutting and pasting bits of the stories onto a wall until "Imperative Flight" took shape. In addition to compiling the text, Schultz choreographed and directed the actresses on stage and also shot the digital video and film used in the performance.|
Writer Anais Nin's writing is so beautiful, so intricate, it's difficult to digest it all on the first attempt when reading; likewise on stage, it's sometimes too dense to comprehend all at once. But like seeing modern dance, or viewing modern art, one must allow it to happen and try to soak up the ideas without exerting force. The multimedia delivery of Schultz's play helps enable that for the viewer. The flow of the drama on stage moves along nicely, alternating between solo pieces by three lively young actresses (Phoebe Ventouras, Vanessa Mandeville Morosco and Masha Sapron), dialogues with the unidentified analyst known only as The Voice (Rob Perry), and intricately choreographed ensemble readings of the text.
There are some scenes that feature some forgettably mild dance, but the tag-team reading of the text is fantastic. Nin's intimate self-discoveries coupled with her imaginative flirtations delivered by an elegant threesome of ladies, all the time dipping in and swooping up, layering the text to match the movement on stage, is an exciting bit of theater.
The screen behind the actresses offers up sometimes glorious, sometimes haunting pictures to yield extreme visions of the text delivered on stage. In the opening scene, as the narrator speaks of being inside a dream with many layers, visions of elevator shafts, subway tunnels, and sewer drainage appear evoking a very real sense of the dreamy underworld from which there is "no return." Spaceships, rockets, and escalators in time ease into sensuous images of the feminine form as the characters Lilith (Ventouras) and Djuna (Sapron) find an equilibrium in their shared sexuality. The digital effects on the screen especially the use of color and the brilliant editing reveal a very sophisticated piece of work that can only be faulted for becoming too mesmerizing at the expense of the actresses' dancing on stage.
In Nin's treatment of female sexuality, there is no direct address or aggression; there is no force, no piston of understanding, no matter how powerful, that is capable of relating her ideas to the audience. As Nin writes about the male analyst, The Voice, "his understanding ended where silence and mystery began." By using her actresses, video and dance in combination, Tori Schultz has found a subtle and truly feminine way to express this sexuality in its layers; a sexuality that is always becoming and is; difficult and elusive for many, especially men like the Voice. Schultz's "Imperative Flight" is a compelling vision of the silence and the mystery on stage for all to see.
|AUGUST 17, 2001|
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