DramaNew YorkPhysical TheatreReview

Body: Anatomies of Being – New Ohio Theatre, New York

Text: Matt Opatrny with blessed unrest

Created by: The Ensemble

Director: Jessica Burr

Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers

The human body has connotative meaning so entrenched with its existence and condition that it often proves challenging to divorce subjective critique of one’s own body (and others’) from understanding it for what it is: a body. In Body: Anatomies of Being, blessed unrest’s ensemble, under the leadership of Jessica Burr, seeks to unpack the cultural and psychological baggage that comes with possessing a body.

Interweaving complex movement with intertwined narrative and bodies in various states of nudity, the ensemble creates an intricate web of physical exploration. Moments of touching humanity juxtapose against scientific facts about the human body. Perspectives of artists, doctors, and others weave together in a loose narrative with threads connecting in unexpected places. The demands of this production are highly taxing, emotionally and physically, and each member of the cast attacks the process with prowess. Their cohesiveness is hypnotic and nearly superhuman. It is the sort of ensemble work that one often hopes to achieve but is so very difficult to develop. For blessed unrest, it is the organic core of their work.

There are a handful of moments in which the action seems disjointed, as though a particular portion of the experience perhaps needs more time in a workshop, or perhaps an overhaul or cutting. The moments that work well are fluid and engaging, so the instances where the shine fades stand out against an otherwise strong piece. The cast is constantly connected and engaged; the faltering moments seem to lie in the overall structure and shape of Bodies. Moments that feel like they ought to be buttons, that have merited a breath of shift for ensemble and audience are overlooked and careen into other parts of the piece. Keeping every body in the space for the duration of the production may lend itself to this – physical visual noise can be compelling, but at times it muddles the clarity of the focal point.

Much like its subject matter, Body: Anatomies of Being has gone through several phases of development, and one would imagine it has hit growing pains along the way. Though the piece itself is not done growing, it stands on strong legs and moves confidently in the direction of its goal. It accomplishes a great deal, and will achieve even more as it continues to build its strength.

Runs until 21 May 2016 | Photo:Alan Roche

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