In the dark and hazy mirrored halls a woman stands teetering on a towering wooden stool – eyes blindfolded and arms shackled to the ceiling. She is motionless, speechless; an altogether eerie presence. Beneath her in the darkness, piles of whitewashed suitcases act as a barrier between her world and some other place. She is Persephone and this is The Maiden, currently playing at The Club at LaMaMa.
This reboot of the Greek abduction myth is the brain child of The Nerve Tank and while it certainly falls under the category of innovative independent theatre, it does so in a way that is expectedly innovative and predictably independent. While there’s a lot to be distracted by it’s not a distraction that transports fans of avant-garde theatre to any new lands. Still, The Maiden does have its enjoyable moments and clocks in at just around an hour – so if you’re in the mood for a little left-of-center performance you’ll probably feel The Maiden is worth the price of admission.
The text, by Chance D. Muehleck, is an amalgam of rap lyrics, movie speeches and bits of poetry which are restated, overlapped, whispered, chanted and spoken in every available manner in order to coax out a subtle nuance or, at times, do the opposite. To this end there are moments when the words (intentionally) become so repetitious as to become almost hypnotic thus losing all their meaning and allowing the tone and timbre to supply the intention of the scene.
Mark William Lindberg as Hades rides about the environs on a stunning four wheeled chariot (designed by Greg Henderson and Melanie Armer) which he steers expertly as he waves a golden megaphone. His ensemble designed by Miodrag Guberinic is goth black with accents of golden bullets which make their intended statement. As Lindberg channels P. Diddy and raps “I got it all but I really need a wife at home” he comes across more like Eminem dunked in Marilyn Manson. Don’t get me wrong -this is actually a very enjoyable thing. Other moments, however, just seem rehashed, familiar, and pat.
Still, for all its contrivances director and choreographer Melanie S. Armer offers forth an underworld that is at times exotic yet robotic – futuristic yet ancient. Some of the most intimate and – if not erotic then at least arousing – moments between Hades and his Persephone (Robin Kurtz) occur as they recite parts of “My Century” By Gunter Grass (referred to moments before in “The Rape Joke“). The blandness of the passage which explains how he “bought his first straw hat to wear while strolling to the Mühlentor” is neatly counterpointed with a Persephone who shimmies up Hades’ chariot and mingles her breath with his before dismounting. Their shared reality throughout this play is often mimicked by the chorus who sometimes watch, sometimes persuade, sometimes invade, and who are the trio of Admiral Grey (who also composed), Brandt Adams, and James “Face” Yu.
The result of all this movement, talk, quoting and perplexity is somehow more Alice In Wonderland than Persephone. One has the sense that this underworld of non-sequiturs is simply another plane of awareness – and calls to mind the stream of consciousness propelled from a grown up Alice as she endlessly drops down the rabbit hole.
Overall, The Maiden is an hour’s worth of one parcel of words leading to another. Midway one must simply come to terms with the fact that leaning forward and concentrating with extreme effort is no more the theatre experience intended here than leaning back and allowing the whole performance to simply wash over you. There’s no correct way to be an audience member, there’s no correct way to interpret theatre, and ultimately if you like your nights of theatre to end with a question mark, or an ellipse rather than a more decisive period, then The Maiden will be exactly the type of theatre experience you’re looking for. As for me …
La MaMa’s The Club
74A East 4th Street (2nd Floor)
(btw Bowery & 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
March 28 – April 13, 2014
Created by The Nerve Tank
Friday – Saturday at 10pm and Sunday at 5:30
CLICK HERE for tickets