Over the next 90 minutes, Faye Driscoll and Aaron Mattocks stepped, bounced, shrieked, and scrabbled through a series of 20 to 30-count episodes, much of it having to do with orality.
Faye Driscoll’s You’re Me. At the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, November 2 and 3.
By Debra Cash.
You’ve heard that art is meant to get you back in touch with your inner preschooler? Faye Driscoll, a New York provocateur/choreographer/director hit the ICA with her two-person show You’re Me last weekend and left the usually pristine Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theatre splattered with spray paint, tinsel, and squashed tomato. I hope the cleanup crew got combat pay.
We were led outside (not too cold on the waterfront) to climb the outdoor stairway to the museum’s theatre space. En route we were offered trays of green grapes and dried figs. (This is a welcoming gesture I’d like to see repeated at, say, the Opera House.) Munching on the fructose, we found our seats and watched two disheveled, fabric-swathed figures standing on platforms shed pieces of their costumes like Christmas trees losing needles. Then, responding to some imperceptible cue, they stripped down to grey t-shirts and tights. This, it turned out, would be consequential because much of You’re Me is an extended and explosive game of dress-up. These neutral bases became canvases for the performers’ unrepressed self-expression.
Over the next 90 minutes, Driscoll and the remarkable, fluent Aaron Mattocks, who had stepped into a role created by Jesse Zaritt and reportedly learned the role on two-week’s notice, stepped, bounced, shrieked, and scrabbled through a series of 20 to 30-count episodes, much of it having to do with orality. She ate out of the palm of his hand. He whimpered, mouth open, like a baby bird, while she, googly eyed, fed him morsels from her mouth. He spit stones. Whole oranges got stuffed into their costumes to indicate boobs, knobby knees, deformed shoulder joints and—you knew it had to happen—scratchable, hanging balls. There was a Halloween-worthy, faux knife murder where a tangle of red yarn became viscera enjoyed by a glazed-eye zombie.
At one point, the duo pounced on a cache of costume-fixings, Driscoll riding the back of Mattock’s neck like a hobbyhorse. Wigs, pink netting, and scarves flew through the air as she flashed through a snapshot-like series of instant characters, a bargain basement Cindy Sherman. When the two performers pulled out spray cans and started painting themselves and each other in day-glow colors, you felt they’ve been waiting for permission to do this their entire adult lives.
But what was really interesting—moving—was the moment when Driscoll and Mattock started rolling across the paint-splattered floor cloth. It bent around them like an envelope, and even when you couldn’t see it, you assumed their anarchic game was going on happily as before. Then, unexpectedly, Driscoll screamed. A real scream. And everything stopped. Mattock walked away, backwards, as if stunned.
What pulled the plug? There was no answer, but there might have been a hint in how Driscoll repeated that momma bird tiptoeing with her teeth in a frozen grimace. Mattock offered her an orange. She moved her face towards it, listless. He bit through the rind and offered her the open segment. She ate. Slowly, sharing it, they settled into the posture of human beings again, albeit human beings covered with the messy traces of their adventures.
You’re Me should have ended there, instead of returning to its lively, baby powder-spraying finale. Maybe Driscoll just meant to underline the self-help book adage that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.