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4 Quotationsfroma Ruined Ciy. Photo: Paula Court. 28 U PERFORMING ARTS JOURNAL 48 41 REZA ABDOH'S QUOTATIONS FROM A RUINED CITY Kenneth King T his season's consummate, vanguard theatrical experience-Reza Abdoh's QuotationsFrom a Ruined City, a prophetic, landmark work that explodes the boundaries of theatre, performance art, and consciousness itself.' A highly energetic, kinetic work for the prodigal Dar a Luz Company ("Dark and Light"), ten actors propel outrage with spellbinding, blistering blitzkrieg bravura, exemplifying Artaud's Theater of Cruelty. Rather than postmodern hyperrealism, I would call it supernatural theatre. Eight men and two women enact fast-paced, densely-packed, intricately staged overlapping scenes, tableaux and dances, many performed to virtually indistinguishable , prerecorded (perfectly lipsynced) voices miked to megadecible audibility on a raised stage with a white picket fence. It opens in dim light, two white-faced actors preset, framed in small square windows in two equidistant, rear-stage, square chambers illumined by white spotlights. The location is a ruin, viewed through lateral rows of twisted concentration camp wire, presided over by these two sullen witnesses or keepers, who refer ambiguously to Gordy and Floyd, who run the dump, and for whom they sometimes serve as anonymous surrogates or proxies. The older man (Tom Fitzpatrick, an excellent actor) caustically explains the situation with razor-sharp sarcasm peppered with flip insouciance, in counterpoint to, and counterpoised by, a younger, heavier man, smoothly sardonic, and as quick, with haunted retorts and quicksilver cynicism. Stacked upstage center, between their "shanties," is a large pyramid of (presumably discarded) LAUNDRY DETERGENT boxes-these words prominently printed on each-like the lackluster, generic brands lining and littering supermarket shelves. While these two characters emphatically exchange cynical salvos about their past, their suburban neighbors, the ruin, the hegemony of corporations, the stock market crash (which coincidently goes into violent palpitations mid-run, March 1994), video monitors above the front of the stage show them close up, prerecorded and without makeup. (The text is by Salar and Reza Abdoh.) One's eyes learn to shift, scan, swivel, scour, and peer intently on high alert. One's ears accustom themselves to the intervallic ciphers of these intriguingly surreptitious voices suspiciously resonating in nightspace punctuated by nervous crickets and the steely, visceral rumble of darkness. U 29 The theatre was constructed for the occasion in a huge abandoned kimono factory on the top floor of an industrial building near 10th Avenue on 16th Street in New York City. The decor constantly repositioned the devious play of camouflaged symmetries, catalyzing tightly controlled, fluid shifts of multiple foci between both halves of the stage, and their magnetic, dialectical counterpoints galvanized this cavernous space with magical, classical finesse: the two recessed chambered cubicles (transformed elevator cars, lined with industrial metallic silver and often lit to ghostly effect, constantly reinhabited and recontextuated as spectral background cavities); two trap doors on the raised front stage; two suspended, upstage film screens and two suspended, overhead, frontal video monitors. Three stage zones multiplied vectorial relays of depth and distance, (re)enforcing and quickening constant shifts between foreground and deep space that carefully insured the circulation and circuitous maelstrom of hyperkinetic activity throughout the entire ninety-minute work, whose game, in part, afforded reading simultaneously interactive grids of exploding mimetic detail, like several interactive scripts and screens making imageries, topographies, countries, histories, ideologies, and forms intertransmissable. Slowly lights come up to reveal the white, raised forestage with the white picket fence illuminating four prone bodies (also preset) wrapped in white mummy-like bandages and two women submerged in the two symmetrically placed trap doors garlanded with artificial, flowered wreaths. The two actors closest to the audience suddenly arch and repeatedly rear up, emitting ferociously amplified screams, then suddenly spring to their feet as amplified machine guns blare in mock military drill, bounding and bouncing with manic robotic repetition, breaking into a heavy rock dance performed with sharp, sinister dexterity amidst its forcefully splintered, helterskelter pandemonium-the actors swinging, punching, volleying, and colliding wildly while a tyrannical voice reiterates over the loudspeakers: "Don't do that. . . ."Their timing, like that of the entire production, unsettles the viewer by its fiercely daunting precision, restlessly unremitting provocation...


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