Writer: Nora Woolley (HiP), Kim Katzberg (Darling)
Director: Raquel Cion
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
Two solo shows, developed over two years, explore the recent past from two very different times and places. Hip and Darkling both deal with characters fighting the ever-present voice inside their heads that pines, “I feel worried that I’m nobody.”
Hip brings us to Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2002, at the start of the modern so-called hipster movement. Wythe, a twenty-something guitarist who smokes cigarettes and has tattoos, needs nothing more than a great band name to kick his career into high gear. Unfortunately one of his songs is allegedly stolen by The Strokes, and this sends him on a journey through North Brooklyn and its colorful inhabitants, ultimately redirecting him in a way we should all see coming, but don’t. Played deftly by writer/performer Nora Woolley, we meet Wythe’s ex-starlet grandmother, the eccentric photographer mom for whose young son he sits, and the acerbic Polish landlady. Through these interactions we follow his growth or demise, depending on your point of view, and we witness the “dooming” of Williamsburg. Seeming to say that the changes of the last decade were inevitable, for better or for worse, Hip is a biting look at the path of one artist and his relationship to a particular time and place. This short piece deserves expansion, and might be served better by becoming a multi-actor full-length one-act play.
Darkling brings us to an unnamed wealthy suburb out west; somewhere that is decidedly not New York City. It’s 1987, and Trinity—played beautifully and awkwardly by Kim Katzberg—wants her mom to leave her alone, wants Kevin to love her, and wants her older sister to escape from the home for troubled teens to which she’s been sent. Outside of family, gender, age, and sexual relationships, she struggles to define herself, finding what she sees as the middle ground between her sister and her mother. There have to be more options than “creative and crazy” or settled down with a family and a nice house but “dead on the inside.” Leaving the theatre, there is the hopeful feeling that Trinity will find the balance that is right for her.
Each of these shows employs video, projection, and voiceover to both move their stories forward and to keep the audience distracted during set changes, all to varying levels of success. In Hip we see music videos and classified ads (bring your glasses if you wear them), while in Darkling we view postcards acted out from sister to sister and get glimpses into what darker personae might be fighting for space in Trinity’s identity. These moments are entertaining and funny, often enough so to make forgiving their flaws easier. Still, four set changes in one 30-minute piece are too many, especially if they don’t happen quickly enough to keep pace.
Another common thread is the exploration of gender and sexuality, and the rôle they play in developing identity and finding one’s place in the world. Whether on purpose as a theme, as in Darkling, or by accident of a female actor playing a male lead, as in Hip, there are very complex questions raised, and luckily, no real answers provided.
Overall, this is a scintillating night in an intimate theatre with two very talented performers, which opens the door to many possible reactions and discussions. Real and raw, this is, in many ways, exactly what indie theatre in New York City should be.
Photo Sarah Rogers |Runs 12th January 2014