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    Meat Is Floating By

    Camera obscure-a

    Starting with a room within a room, into which we can only peer surreptitiously through a few vacant wall panels or by video image, "Meat Is Floating By" wastes an interesting concept with scenes so abstract that even the crew isn't paying attention.


    There's a certain level of avant-garde where you can only say it didn't make sense to you personally and leave it at that. And "Meat Is Floating By" is of that ilk. You might hate it, you might find it challenging or intriguing or appealing in some way, but more likely, whatever the creators intended, it just won't make sense to a less enlightened mind.

    Company: Collapsable Giraffe.
    Written and performed by: Iver Findlay, Jim Findlay, Amy Huggans, Jeff Sugg, Joey Truman.
    The Collapsable Hole
    146 Metropolitan Ave. at Berry St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn
    Dec. 7, 2002 - Jan. 25, 2003

    Sometimes this kind of play constructs a story in some new and wonderful way, sometimes it offers moments of sudden hilarity, and sometimes it swings sharp jabs at the subconscious, but I didn't get much of that from "Meat Is Floating By" by the Collapsable Giraffe company. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

    There are some interesting experiments in the show, though. The performance takes place in and around a small room constructed in the middle of the stage, with a few wall panels removed so that we see fragments of the action, like glimpsing into an apartment across the street through the windows. A video camera occasionally shows a different view into the room, perpendicular to our view from the seats. And one of the actors enters with a miniature camera taped to his fingers, which he holds at arm's length and uses to film himself with the image shown on screens in front of the semi-closed "room."

    And there's one really funny bit that would probably work in any less out-there sketch comedy setting. As a voice on a speaker announces "robot training" instructions, a man lying on the floor of the room moves his limbs in response to synthesized sounds. Soon the sounds are woven into a piece of electronic music and the robot "dances" in time with the audio cues. It's loopy fun which teases the mind.

    It's a measure of the play's impact that members of the audience were nodding off and one was blowing his nose as the show wore on. And it wasn't only the audience — a member of the crew loudly opened a beer can and later lit up a cigarette.  

    But there's a jumble of other experimental stuff that just feels pointless. A guy sits on a box, drinks a beer and smokes a cigarette, mumbling inaudibly from time to time. There's a guy shouting the same sentence over and over in garbled German. There's a guy hanging clothes and a wig on a microphone stand, for whatever reason.

    Worst of all, there's a lot of ear torture going on. The heavily distorted background sound swells repeatedly to ear-damaging levels — an irresponsible way to treat your audience's eardrums. And at one point the actors set up instruments and play an unskilled garage version of the 1970s Melanie hit "Lay Down," for no reason that has anything to do with any plot — or ability to play. It brought down my estimation of the rest of the show. In general, I'm all for people experimenting with theatrical forms, and if I don't understand it I'd rather assume that it's me and not them — but physically damaging your audience and indulging yourself in an art form where you have no ability is just insulting.

    It's a measure of the play's impact that members of the audience were nodding off and one spectator was blowing his nose as the show wore on. And it wasn't only the audience — a member of the crew loudly opened a beer can from the audience seating area and later lit up a cigarette. Part of the concept, or just a lack of respect for the whole process?

    I'm intrigued enough by the idea of a voyeuristic play that takes place through the windows of a neighbor's apartment to want to see a coherent story that really explores that concept, but that's not what "Meat Is Floating By" was about. The Collapsable Giraffe crowd was going for something else. I hope they found it.

    DECEMBER 27, 2002

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