Theatre — with an –re. One of the first pieces to kick off this year’s Capital Fringe festival, Colony does so proudly. And just as unapologetically.
The setting — Fringe’s “Chaos on F” second-story loft, has gone through few modifications. With some simple lighting and a techno beat, this postmodern piece feels more like a typical day in a Manhattan studio than a night at the theater. Beginning before the audience enters and continuing after it leaves, Colony evokes a sense that we are more dropping-in on a state of being, rather than arriving for a show.
There is no direction for audience members. There are no chairs, or indeed, a designated place to stand. As Fringe-goers shuffle in, they are met abruptly by Kelly Bond and Melissa Krodman, who perform the piece. They jog in rhythm to the music in the space, dressed in matching striped leotards; their hair bounces and bobs as they move. It is mesmerizing and oddly hypnotic, if not a little unsettling. Yet as with any performance art, the true interest in the piece is the audience.
Each time Bond and Krodman move — which is typically a slow and methodic process — they re-designate the room. Where there is performance and where there is audience is continually appropriated and re-appropriated until, ultimately, it becomes apparent that the entire room is performative. And the audience is a part, whether they want to be or not. The performers weave a sort of energy between themselves, as if they are connected by a series of vibrating strings through which they might be communicating. It feels as though they are holding themselves in trance, and soon enough, feels as though we’ve been taken in as well.
There are no chairs to sink into, no aisles by which to creep out. The show is the room and the audience is the attraction, vibrating along with the performers in something that feels meditative. Some people move to avoid them; others stand their ground. Some scowl and some gape; others just stand or sit, staring, as transfixed and unblinking as the performers themselves.
“They’re…they’re really special,” noted one audience member after the piece. As is par for performance art, reactions fell across a spectrum of amazed to annoyed, with many landing somewhere near confused. Whatever it is, it is certainly not your grandmother’s theatre. It is an experiment in audience manipulation, in how to craft an energy that envelops a room and control it. Bond and Krodman do this and they do it well, wordlessly, effortlessly and unapologetically. One might even say professionally. You are a piece of the play, caught in a thick humming molasses that fills the space for 50 melodic minutes.
If you’re on the hunt for something new, something engaging and explorative and aggressively post-modern, give Colony a try. If for nothing else than to watch your neighbor, who you’ll find, is just as much a part of your experience as the performers are.
Delivering what it promises, this piece merits a strong 4 out of 5 stars.
Colony has 5 performances in Fringe, ending July 28, 2012. At Caos on F, 923 F St NW, Washington, DC.
Details and tickets