Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Possessions of La Boîte

This weekend The Reformers open their flagship piece, The Possessions of La Boîte at Zoomtopia on SE Belmont. The only thing I knew about the piece when I parked down the street on a rainy Friday night is what I’d read on The Reformers’ website:

“The Possessions of la boîte is an ensemble devised work taken from actual family letters and group improvisation.”

If that description makes you think of something that would be performed off-off-Broadway by the New York Neo-Futurists or at the Incubator Arts Project then you are in the same boat I was. And you would be just as wrong. Possessions is less a play than it is an orchestral piece, where actors replace the violins, Richard E. Moore’s soundscapes stand the cellos, and the timpani is the click click click of a typewriter.

Conceived by Charmian Creagle and then created by an ensemble of defunkt Theatre alum, Possessions uses Creagle’s old family letters to create a theatrical poem. Everything is subsumed by the mellow, sleepy rhythm of cycling repetitions of tropes from the source material. This rhythm is augmented by the Moore’s tonal moodscape and the gray costumes designed by Kimberly Smay. These legato elements are punctuated by an staccato that threatens to intrude into the meditative qualities of the piece, only to once again be repressed by their twilight grays. They begin small: a sneeze, the snap of a sheet, the rattle of a typewriter. By the end, they have grown into Kubrickian projections by Ben Purdy and Carrie Solomon: rapid-fire montages of found video accompanied by a piercing industrial music. But even these more dramatic intrusions lack the potency to speed or permanently alter the driving legato.

These rhythmic tension provide a kind of drama, but not the kind I was expecting. Possessions works well as a piece of classical music, and I feel that if I’d gone expecting Dvorak instead of Neo-Futurism, I would have gotten a lot more out of the experience.

The Possessions of La Boîte plays Fridays through Sundays at 810 SE Belmont at 8PM. The price is $15.

And, just for fun, let’s try pairing plays with beer:
Black Butte Porter is the perfect beer for Possessions. The rich dark flavor interrupted but not overwhelmed by the prominent hops matches The Reformers’ legatos and staccatos.

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