Faye Driscoll’s muddled version of taking artifice apart is far too familiar; we’ve done it all before, seen it more than once.
Thank You for Coming: Play. Choreography and text: Faye Driscoll in collaboration with the performers, staged at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston on October 21.
By Mary Paula Hunter
After we entered the auditorium at the ICA we were led to the stage, forced to sit on the floor in our good concert-going clothes, asked to don costumes and then required to fill out cards that were supposed to explain what was missing in our lives. We then rehearsed our lines in small choruses. It was pretty clear we were in for a heavy dose of deconstruction, a dismembering of conventional performance practices. Trust me I told my companion, I’ve been here before.
And that familiarity was the central problem with Thank You for Coming: Play, Faye Driscoll’s muddled version of taking artifice apart; we’ve done it all before, seen it more than once. Sadly, this version fell short of doing anything new, adding nothing to the post-modern canon of tearing apart the idea of performance, exposing the innards of aesthetic illusion, as it were.
The evening’s most rewarding moment came when we were allowed to sit in the ICA’s comfy auditorium. The worst was a ‘remedial’ mime section — the writing was wince worthy. And then there was the ending, staged in total darkness, when Driscoll (her part in the ‘controlled’ chaos is to show up in her everyday clothes, sometimes appearing on stage, sometimes in the audience. The BIG idea: the grand puppeteer is just like you and me. Except that she didn’t pay for her ticket, though I assume she was paid to put on the show). She read all of the cards we filled out, a monotonous exercise that was neither illuminating nor powerfully absurd. The point here is that this kind of ‘conceptual’ dance fails more often than not because it depends for its success on serendipity — the material isn’t honed or shaped during prolonged rehearsals. The director/choreographer relieves performers of the necessary ritual of bringing a critical sensibility to the material. Someone might have noted that a boring ending is a really bad ending. But the cards would not be filled in and ready to go during rehearsal. The sole intent seems to be to engage audience members, to make their words part of the performance.
To be fair, the second section of show, when the dancers flailed, pounced, screamed, and tore about recklessly, proved to be entertaining though not very enlightening. You could concentrate on frenzy of the activity and ignore the obscure political intention to comment on the breakup of community (Trump?). An easy target, but Driscoll staged the mayhem with a light touch. The man behind me laughed throughout; then he and everyone else fell quiet — for what felt like an eternity.
Mary Paula Hunter lives in Providence, RI. She’s the 2014 Pell Award Winner for service to the Arts in RI. She is a choreographer and a writer who creates and performs her own text-based movement pieces.