DramaNew YorkReview

Quantum Joy – Dixon Place, New York City

Creator / Performer: Victor Morales

Dramaturg: Mariangela Lopez

Reviewer: Jamie Rosler


The theatre is dark, except for a beach ball emanating light. It rolls, seemingly under its own volition, slowly across the stage. A voice begins to recite lines of poetry. Perhaps this voice comes from the ball; perhaps it is the voice of a being above us all. An image lights up the entire upstage wall. Reminiscent of a beach at night, with twinkling lights outlining what might be a tree, what might be a shoreline, what might be the great expanse of sea. Suddenly the house lights go up and Victor Morales enters the space, abruptly changing the mood and addressing the audience directly.

Reality shifts immediately from the world with which we were engaging to the tangible world of the theatrical space. The walls, the chairs, the street outside, ourselves in this room. Morales starts to guide us through the point at which art and science can be one, or rather, can be two sides of the same exploration for meaning. Inspired by the claim that “Cubism prepared humanity for the future,” Morales suggests that art—some art—can be evolutionary. He begins to wonder if quantum physics can be art, and guides us through a video game-like world created on that principle.

The connection exists because we are told that it does, and we accept the reality of the world as he presents it. Morales is passionate and engaging, which goes a long way to drawing the audience into his experiment. He controls this world and our journey through it with a handheld controller. He is God of all that we see, especially the one humanoid being in this realm. He is our anti-hero, we are told. He drinks and is violent. Even in a world without guns there is violence.

At one point we watch a video taken by an observer in Venezuela, watching protesters carried away by police, one by one, until the observer is noticed by a cop, and quickly becomes the subject of her own disturbing footage. Morales reminds us that “all governments are fucked up.”

Throughout most of Quantum Joy, Morales maintains a dark curiosity and a humor, even when delving into the morbid facets of humanity. This makes it all the more jarring when, in the final minute of the piece, we are reminded that we “still kill each other,” and Morales exits, suddenly unable to handle or hide his contempt for humanity. One wonders if the title of the piece is purposefully ironic, or perhaps plays off the idea that one particle can be in two places at once (as explored earlier in the show), and therefore joy can simultaneously be despair.

Taking this journey through art, science and reality is fascinating. The intersection of these ideas and their theories raises many questions. Smartly, Morales does not pretend to have any answers, but is simply intrigued by the process of questioning and discovery, as all artists and scientists should be.

Runs until 19 December 2015 | Image: Peter Yesley


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