Theater

A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds, Nextdoor @ NYTW

"Names Hem a Person In"

A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds

Next Door @ NYTW

Written by Mac Wellman
Directed by Elena Araoz

Cast:
Anastasia Olowin
Timothy Siragusa

Produced by Kathleen and Harvey Guion and Dan McCarthy

Music composed and performed by Anna McClellan, Daniel Ocanto, Sean Smith and Graham Ulicny

Justin Townsend (Production Design)

Amy Palen and María Cristina Fusté (Associate Producers)

A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds
Photo courtesy NYTW website

February 10, 2018

Red lights appear; feels like the belly of a whale, or a dwarf star constellation in an unknown galaxy. Surging, pulsing vibrations of piano and trumpet and cyber-overlaced intricacies of guitar. A strange man creeps onto an upraised plinth and begins a 45-minute monologue about...what? It's hard to say. Simultaneously familiar and just out of reach.

Plays like A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds fascinate me. Let's say this - they're not the types of shows you invite your non-theater friends to unless you want them to bring up "that weird show I saw one time in New York" as the punchline at a boring cocktail party full of people who've never seen anything more unique than Jersey Boys.

For the more adventurous, this one-man and one-woman show plays within, without, through, under, and around language. You know exactly what "Yankee Doodle Electro Flagellae" are, where to encounter "The Bright Cold Meringue of Daytime," and don't think twice about nodding pensively to "The chill of recognition of the self and recognition of the self in another."

Mac Wellman has a knack for making you feel with words. The understanding of individual letters submerged beneath a greater awareness of the lives of strange asteroidal inhabitants who call themselves by the same name: Mary Carnivorous Rabbits.

My favorite theme between both acts - delightfully and curiously and often disturbingly played by Timothy Siragusa and Anastasia Olowin - converged around names. In the first act, each person (or...being?) on this asteroid has the same name: Mary Carnivorous Rabbits (naturally).

Contrarily, on a neighboring asteroid, a strange character (woman? not quite woman, not quite anything else) named Pollen insists, "Names hem a person in...constitute a boundary." And the thing about boundaries is "you have to deal with who or what is on the other side."

In experimental theater we cling to familiar things, and names are the most familiar thing we have. Dale Carnegie's knew. He knew a person's name is the "sweetest and most important sound in any language." But what is left on the other side of a name? The true self? The not-self? The transcendent self? If everyone is named the same (Mary Carnivorous Rabbits, anyone?), is that the same as no name at all?

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