Review of DEEP TRANCE BEHAVIOR IN POTATOLAND
(A RICHARD FOREMAN THEATER MACHINE)
by Joseph Nechvatal
With the art of Richard Foreman, the choice of meaning, as always, is ours. Foreman’s new abstract theater piece DEEP TRANCE BEHAVIOR IN POTATOLAND, by being staged as an eccentric séance, was for me about psychic manipulation, lies, and propaganda. It is about a potato people that once questioned reality but who now fall into consensus trance and walk lockstep behind illicit and corrupt ghosts. In other words; the sorrows of empire have arrived.
DEEP TRANCE BEHAVIOR IN POTATOLAND is, of course, not directly about challenging the American empire and seeking accountability. It is as much about making us laugh and scratch our heads as anything else. But by using what appears to be his emblematic dada cut-up technique in an international setting (tableaus are digitally filmed in Japan and England) DEEP TRANCE addresses our local American consciousness of empire by inferring global expanse and also difference. Through difference he disturbs the typical American comfort of watching the world through televisions and laptops, and indirectly confronts couch potato activists who passively ignore the destruction of rights and freedoms, silently acquiescing to the myriad number of crimes against humanity while obediently purchasing and consuming according to the dictates of the corporatist world.
For me, DEEP TRANCE implied that one day, in the not too distant future, couch potatoes will awaken and open their eyes only to see that what they once took for granted no longer exists, what they assumed would always exist has been made extinct, what they forgot even existed has been washed away, what they failed to learn and understand has been revised, and what they failed to cherish and defend has been destroyed. Thus Foreman’s use of a central trope: the sinking grand piano. Yep, down with the empire.
DEEP TRANCE helps us see then the fusion of empire and corporations, as well as the mutation of government into the instrument of profitable bottom line. So the turn of the century spirit photographs that Foreman uses to create his set, it turns out, are a synonym for American puppets disguised as ghosts that trance-like pledge allegiance to the dead empire. Thus, in the halls of smoke and mirrors only illusions do we see. In the desert of delusion only mirages can be reached. I found it all very funny. And very astute.
Performers: Joel Israel, Caitlin Mcdonough-Thayer, Fulya Peker, Caitlin Rucker and Sarah Dahlen.
Written, directed and designed by Richard Foreman; sound by Mr. Foreman; technical director, Peter Ksander; stage manager, Brendan Regimbal. Presented by the Richard Foreman Theater Machine and the Ontological-Hysteric Theater, Mr. Foreman, artistic director; Shannon Sindelar, managing director.
At the Ontological-Hysteric Theater at St. Mark’s Church, 131 East 10th Street, East Village; (212) 420-1916. Through April 13. Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes.