The Performance Club

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This article was written on 24 Apr 2012, and is filed under Claudia's Blog.

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Plain-Spoken, Richly Sung

L-R: Keith Connolly, Bobby McElver (top), Brian Mendes (middle), Andrew Schneider (bottom), Ari Fliakos in “Early Plays” from The Wooster Group and New York City Players. Photo courtesy The Wooster Group.

I can’t remember the first Richard Maxwell song I heard. But I do remember, and clearly, how I felt when his New York City Players massed on the stage and lifted their voices—those oh-so-vulnerable, unladen voices—forming a humble, even ragged harmony. It surprised me, completely. And yet it felt entirely inevitable.

I never, ever, ever get why people find Maxwell’s productions mechanical or dry. For me, they are bursting with rich, unruly, often painful emotions. I sort of think that every one of his plays is, at its heart, about the human heart: what it yearns for, what it knows it cannot have and still desperately seeks. Only he wants to avoid having his actors supply his audience with ready-made, easily digestible feelings. He wants to give us the space in which to figure things out for ourselves. Space … is there anything better in a theater? I can’t think what. Maxwell creates space by a scrupulous adherence to an open delivery.

So, but, he also wants to show us his own feelings.  And that’s where the songs come in, in all of their awkward, here-is-my-heart glory. Hurrah for that.

And hurrah for this: the company has very kindly accepted my request to post one of Maxwell’s songs, Fanny Ledoux, from Early Plays, the Players’ collaboration with The Wooster Group. Here ’tis:

Click the triangle/play button below to hear the recording:

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Want more? Head on over to the Whitney Museum, where Maxwell and company are holding court on the fourth floor as the Biennial’s latest performing arts residents. Tomorrow through the 29th, they’ll be “reframing rehearsal as an open and publicly presented activity,” embarking on a new original play. With any luck, they’ll sing.

One Comment

  1. John Wyszniewski
    April 25, 2012

    In Maxwell’s work, I see people on stage. I know it’s a cliche to discuss the idea of real ‘people’ on stage, but I can’t help it. The actors seem human, aware, present. They are vulnerable. They are sad. They are warm. I very often feel that I could join them in their make believe worlds and that we would all get along. Are they a mirror? Perhaps. A good friend? I hope so. Their humanity forces me to listen and gives me the feeling that I would be heard.

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