“Who’s got this card?” Anna Lathrop calls, holding up the nine of diamonds. The woman in front of me raises her hand and Lathrop, the ringmaster of the evening, waltzes over.
“But I kinda don’t want you to open it,” the woman adds warily, indicating the box in her lap with a nine of diamonds pinned to the top. The box had been under her seat for the entire show, and Lathrop looks the woman straight in the eye and smirks.
“Well, I don’t see you stopping me,” she says, and whips the lid off.
And the woman doesn’t stop her. None of us do, even when the piece takes a shocking turn. That’s one of the many messages of the piece, entitled “The Price is Pain” (conceived by Kathleen Burnard), one of ten performances that comprise the show entitled Apotheosis.
As Lathrop announces in the beginning, there isn’t a story tying the pieces together. It’s food for thought, not food for plot. The evening begins with Lathrop explaining what the word apotheosis means (after a considerable amount of disdain that most of the audience didn’t know): to elevate man to the status of a god.
At first, it seems like a misnomer. All ten of the pieces turn a piercing floodlight onto the parts of humanity we ordinarily hide from the light of day: brutality, ecstacy, addiction, etc. I can guarantee that by the end of the opening piece, entitled “The Embrace”, that no one in the audience felt like a god. The piece, conceived by Jon Jon Johnson, cuts directly into human insecurity and the lies we tell ourselves at our worst moments, giving a critical look at the inner voice of those suffering from depression.
conceived by The Ensemble
at Fort Fringe – The Shop
607 New York Ave, NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
But there’s a beauty to it all, as the night carries on. There is no doubt to anyone present that all eight of these performers are extremely talented — Johnson plays violin for several pieces, while Sharisse Taylor moves with an almost inhuman, fluid precision. Perhaps clearest in “Devil Roll,” an embodiment of ecstacy, is the unity of the actors — they gracefully and unselfishly cede the spotlight to one another, first to Ryan Tumulty for a vocal riff, then to Jorge Silva for a wild madcap dance, and so on.
The Shop is the perfect venue, shutting out the world completely, feeling like some dusky cabaret in the basement of an abandoned building, a place where truths like these can be honestly expressed without judgment. Honestly, there’s no way to fix one genre onto Apotheosis — to merely call it performance art would be a disservice to the elegant and subtle brilliance of the show. What I can say is that no human being curious about human beings could walk away from this show without some hard lesson learned or some new idea to consider.
By the end of the final piece, the Avalanche Theatre Company seems more like a union of visual philosophers than actors and dancers. Lathrop ends the show with a phrase that I’m still turning over in my mind as possibly the best descriptor Apotheosis” as a whole:
“Thank you for being so wonderfully human.”