Art Babies and Bright Lights in Paige Powell's The Ride
It was a Monday night; I sat on a bean bag chair in the corner of the Con-Way warehouse slurping a Capri-Sun; I sat two feet away from Laura Arrington, who was wearing a beard of blue ducktape and sprightly screaming a W.H. Auden poem at me...and us, the audience. “AH CRAZY SMURF” my notes read.
I’m still trying to make sense of ADULT. I can say for certain that it was a duet (between Laura Arrington and Jesse Hewit), and that it was more of a performance than a “dance” dance—like what the hip ‘60s kids might call a "happening"—and that I was confused, annoyed, and, at the end, surprisingly kind of sad. I think it’s about effort—the act of effort itself. And ambition. And exhaustion and confusion. Maybe.
The audience is small; you need a reservation to see the performance. There are about six rows of chairs, plus a few big bean bags in the front, all pushed towards the far end of the warehouse. FYI, sitting in the bean-bag row does not mean you will be forced to participate in the show in any weird way, as feared. The big warehouse door ominously shutters down right before the show—“Now we’re trapped,” intoned my bean-bag mate—and the lights go down. The only light is more or less the green glow from the EXIT sign (getting more ominous).
Soon Jesse Hewit appears; he turns his back to the audience at a considerable distance from us and starts singing, solo, and, hey, has a great voice—quasi-operatic. Eventually you start to hear percussive clicking, and Arrington appears from stage right. Her head is down. She’s tap-dancing. She tap-dances for a long time, until the tap dancing deteriorates to scraping the concrete floor, and she falls to the ground and writhes around for a while. Meanwhile, Hewit starts running in circles around the warehouse (he is actually a good runner too—good gait!). Then he plops down on a janky, particle-board folding table. He lies there, Deposition-of-Christ-like, sweaty, with heavy breathing. Arrington approaches the table, exhausted and sweaty. There’s several hesitant, *mock* sexual encounters between them (think 7th grade). They roll off the table twisted together.
The first act is over.
At this point, a cereal cart is wheeled out. My eyes perked up. I am not above saying that, for whatever annoyance I might have felt for the lack of structure or purpose of the show, it dissolved when I saw boxes of Lucky Charms and Cocoa Pebbles and Capri-Suns and wine and (seemingly) whiskey, and...basically all the stuffs of college kids' fever dreams. It was intermission, and we needed to turn our seats around to face the wall. Meanwhile, we got snacks.
The second act was more exciting.
The second act featured a giant, pink-Pepto-Bismal wall with YIKES! written across it. It’s when Arrington yells the Auden poem, Musee des Beaux Arts, which is about the fall of Icarus—about Icarus and moreover about the onlookers in the painting by Bruegel which features the fall of irreverent Icarus, who flies too close to the sun with his wax wings and plummets (thank you, AP English). Arrington herself has a small, super athletic build—basically she's built like a brick shithouse. Watching her move is total entertainment; she moves acrobatically, she leaps and springs, but also keeps great time. At the end of the performance, Hewit has a hot-pink, makeshift tunic, with a pink turban and pink duck tape lips. He's kind of voguing. Arrington is wearing track shorts and a baggy T-shirt with the sleeves ripped off; the top *I think * has the Landscape with the Fall of Icarus painting on it.
Standing on a chair behind Hewit, Arrington twirls a flashing LED wand (it looks like a whip) in time to Judy Collins. The song "Who Knows Where the Time Goes” is playing over the speakers. I got teary, mostly because of Judy Collins (DAMMIT she always makes me cry), but partially because I felt like the show was over, and I didn’t want it to be over. But why?
All the literature on the performance says ADULT is about death. I didn’t get that so much, aside from the fact that I think all art is a little bit about death (blame the Puritan in me). Arrington and Hewit are artists working out of San Francisco, in fact, they’re a part of Keith Hennessy’s Turbulence: a dance about the economy, which I saw at last year’s TBA and had a really hard time with. I liked ADULT much better. I would recommend it. Even though I’m still puzzling it together, I think that’s ok. And maybe even, in that way, it’s like youth and growing up: It's not what you expect; It doesn't make sense; it's irritating a lot of the time, but once you realize it is over, you don't want it to end.
There are two more performances of ADULT, tonight at 8:30pm and Wednesday at 8:30pm.
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