Source Text: William S. Burroughs
Directed & Conceived: Mallory Catlett
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
The pedigree behind Mallory Catlett’s Decoder: The Ticket that Exploded is vastly impressive. With support from Gibney Dance and Theatre Conspiracy, Stony Brook University, CultureHub, Playwrights Theatre Center, Mabou Mines, the Collapsable Hole, and the Watermill Center (via the National Endowment for the Arts), this is the second component of a trilogy set to premiere in 2020.
Based on the second novel of William S. Burrough’s Nova Trilogy, the work behind this experiential, postdramatic production is undeniably strong. The cacophony of media is deliberately overwhelming, but the execution of each component is faultless. Video by Keith Skretch and Simon Harding is sharp, disturbing, and powerfully disorienting. G. Lucas Crane’s live manipulation of sound and video is unfailingly specific, and he does it all while performing with the formidable Jim Findlay. The overall effect is dizzying and sinister, with moments of ironically comical bunch that balance the potentially oppressive nature of the piece.
One word of caution when approaching this play: this reviewer saw the production having never read anything by Burroughs, and had a very different experience than her companion who was very knowledgeable of the author’s works. To someone unfamiliar with the fever dream-style writing of Burroughs, this production can feel like an hour of technical reverie and deafening noise salad; undeniably well-executed but with a frustrating dearth of footholds. But for the viewer knowledgeable of Burroughs’ works, it is an accurate and visceral representation of the esoterica non-narrative style for which the author is known and brings to vibrant life the nonlinear musings and psycho/social/political commentary that the author infuses throughout his work.
The creative team behind Decoder: The Ticket that Exploded is undeniably skilled, and the support behind this production speaks for itself. For fans of William S. Burroughs’ writing, it is an experiential treat and a new way to approach daunting text. For those less familiar with the writing, it is an immersion in the ethereal and should be approached with no intention of tracing any tangible narrative. It is a singular experience that occurred on a single night, but audiences will look forward to its resurrection as part of the entire Nova Trilogy in 2020.
Reviewed on July 8, 2019 | Photo Credit: Maria Baranova