By Monique Jones
By Travis Cohen
By Liz Tracy
By Terrence McCoy
By Morgan Golumbuk
By Ciara LaVelle
By Carolina del Busto
By Michael E. Miller
Audiences accustomed to conventional drama in which story-based scripts take center stage while sets, lighting, and sound assume supporting roles may find this multimedia expressionistic evening baffling. One way to approach the piece is with the same receptivity and surrender we bring to music, dance, or abstract sculpture or painting. Like these arts, ENATOWAP never explicitly tells us what to think or feel. It offers a collage of impressions and connections that cohere on a nonverbal, associative level. (The title refers to a memory-enhancement system originated by Garcia's grandfather.)
For anyone who has followed Marta Garcia's development as a director since her graduation from New World School of the Arts two and a half years ago, this show (which she co-wrote with Gomez, and directs) seems like a logical step in her artistic progression: She moved from overly ambitious productions of European avant-garde dramas to directing last season's stellar interpretation of Samuel Beckett's absurdist classic Endgame. The forsaken urban setting in ENATOWAP recalls the barren postnuclear backdrop of Endgame; the tangled, symbiotic relationship between the women in ENATOWAP echoes the power struggles between Clov and Hamm in Beckett's tour de force. Yet Garcia and Gomez put their own spin on the theme of modern alienation in this original work. They interweave a splendid soundtrack (including music by Meredith Monk and Peruvian singer Yma Sumac), a rapid-fire video montage by Christopher Wingo, and inventive choreography by Octavio Campos with eerie costumes, an ominous set, and spoken text. The words shift back and forth between sounding like conversation to sounding like atonal music. The combination results in a giddy, grimy, unsentimental view of the impossibility of domestic bliss in a world where people cower in houses dominated by electronic entertainment.
Madcap and Foil (played with rage, demented humor, and abandon by Lela Lombardo and Gomez) share a bunkerlike dwelling overlooking a high wire fence pressed up against a wall of garbage. Presumably trapped inside this prison-cum-home, the couple ricochet between abusing, cajoling, and nuzzling one another while obsessively cleaning, dressing, watching television, making music on metal tubes, eating, defecating, and making love. Yet they are never completely alone: Word Watcher (imposingly portrayed by the lanky Octavio Campos), a macabre creature in a top hat, tails, intimidating platform shoes, and wires duct-taped all over his costume follows them around with a black-and-white television, perpetually on. (Ironically, the most accessible part of the evening proves to be one of the least successful. At first Foil and Madcap are funny as they dance around the TV singing advertising jingles. But the episode goes on too long -- so many other social commentaries on consumer culture have explored the banality of Madison Avenue to death.)
In the best tradition of abstract art, the meaning of this work does not reside in objective standards but in the interaction between concrete elements and the audience's subjective response to those elements. Do not suppose that abstraction and subjectivity mean the evening lacks form, however. ENATOWAP's creators have fashioned a tightly structured, mentally demanding, absurdly funny, and often disturbing theatrical event. If you're interested in how local artists are pushing the boundaries of traditional theater, give this piece a shot.
Camping with Henry & Tom. Written by Mark St. Germain; directed by Rafael de Acha; with Bill Hindman, Peter Haig, Dick Robison, and G. Michael McKay. Through December 15. For information, call 443-5909 or see "Calendar Listings."
ENATOWAP. Written by Marta Garcia and Nancy Gomez; directed by Marta Garcia; with Lela Lombardo, Nancy Gomez, and Octavio Campos. November 29 through December 7. For information, call 758-0630 or see "Calendar Listings.