Yes, all those are supposed to be capitalized. Caps-lock expert and intrepid Bwog tipster Alexandra Svokos reviews Thursday’s opening NOMADS WORDPLAY 2011 production, part of the two-week long CARAVAN (Columbia Artists Reaching Audiences ViA NOMADS) festival .
The CARAVAN experience begins with free food in a cozy atmosphere. The food and performance are free—and with such great shows you feel as if they are being too generous. NOMADS began its first annual campus-wide spring festival of student-produced new works last night with CARAVAN in the Diana Black Box.
The evening opened with “Hail Mary,” a dance choreographed by Dominique Nieves and performed by Hana Goldstone, Alicia Outing, and herself. The performance is about struggles with faith, especially in the face of Catholic preaching and habit for rituals. “Hail Mary” clearly conveys this message with the three women putting their hands together in prayer and laying with arms outstretched like Jesus on the cross. The women dance beautifully, whipping around the stage and viciously moving their feet in a futile attempt to run. It was an excellently executed piece.
Next was a reading of a play written by Josh Szymanowski and directed by Christina McCarver. Aptly titled “Masterpiece,” this play is a satire of typical theater and addresses themes of identity and words. It begins with a series of scenes involving characters named by their order of appearance—the first character is called “One,” and so on. A narrator (Nico McCormick) reads stage directions, often interacting with the cast and reacting to the directions themselves.
These opening scenes are hilarious, with disjointed dialogue and plays on words. The script often pokes fun at theater: there are many unmotivated shouts about the “bourgeoisie” and “proletariat” and at one point a character shouts “shut your allegorical face!” In an argument between a blind man (Clarisse Van Rote) and a man in a wheelchair (Jeana Poindexter) over who deserves more sympathy, the wheelchair man says “don’t shower me with blind rage!” The narrator points out the less obvious double meaning—the man in the wheelchair is holding an umbrella.
A semblance of a story soon emerges involving a man/machine named Feldspar (Max Silver), his creator or mentor Colonel Smudge (Alex Katz), a rotten king, the end of the world, and some aliens. Reminiscent of Beckett, “Masterpiece” has actors throwing lines at each other, often with deeper meaning, comedy, or both. Szymanowski employs projections brilliantly. Scene 5, in fact, is not acted at all—it is merely a projection of words being typed.
Although they only began practicing a week ago, the acting was persuasive. In his portrayal as the identity-less Feldspar, Silver appeared innocent, scared, and desperate as he tried to figure out who he is and what he is doing. As his master, Katz does a great job being authoritative without being totally unlikable. Other notable performances included Rebecca Lesser in several roles, including a mean-spirited Thirteen and alien and Charlie Gillette as the dreamy Quartzcrystalgazer.
Often so caught up in the story, the audience readily followed instructions given by McCormick. With surprising moments and well-formulated dialogue, as well as innovative use of projections, “Masterpiece” succeeds in reminding the audience of the importance of words and, ultimately, being alive.
WORDPLAY continues in the Diana until April 16 and there are more CARAVAN performances through April 30. All performances are free. For more information, see http://nomadscaravan.tumblr.com.