Like a 1950s cellar, the room is festooned with clothes-lines, which are, in turn, draped with fabrics, and also photographs and notes, all attached by clothespins. There is a ball of fabrics, a big one, on the floor in the middle of the room. Three women (Claire Alrich, Maryam Foye, and Britney Mongold) meander among the ropes, occasionally touching the objects, occasionally stretching. Instrumental music plays. We sit, or stand, around the edges of the room.
This is an Artistic Blind Date, which is to say that it is one of the most difficult and ambitious things attempted in theater in this town. Three artists, each from a different discipline, are thrown together and told to collaborate on a work which utilizes all of their gifts. To make things even more challenging, the work must be about twenty minutes in duration. To make things even more challenging after that, the work must parallel the theme of one of the three full-length plays (This one: Heroes and Home, the theme, more or less, of Buried Cities.)
In my years of watching these productions, I have seen only one unqualified success; the rest have been provocative and imperfect, or interesting failures, or failures which weren’t so interesting.
Entanglement falls into the provocative and imperfect category. The three artists unroll the ball and begin, in a measured, languid way, to build a labyrinth. Alrich, a dancer, is particularly graceful doing this, but all three are unhurried and elegant. The labyrinth constructed, we move to the principal business of the piece, which is to mourn our failure to know our dead parents.
Each artist reads a wistful love letter to her mother (or, in one case, grandmother), each ending “who were you?”, the past tense assuring that the question will never be answered. Parents take a vow against transparency to their children. Your father may love you to bits, but he will never tell you about the time in Viet Nam when the mortars came in and he crapped in his pants, or the time he wept inconsolably over his dead dog, though he was twenty-five. Your mother may accept you completely as you are, but she will not tell you about the time, depressed and a little drunk, that she took the stranger home with her from the bar, or the time she was so angry with her mother that she slapped her hard enough to make the older woman’s dentures fly out. This is because they want you to be braver, better, and more compassionate than they were, and so are unwilling to offer themselves as an excuse to fall short.
Each artist reads her letter with authority and conviction, Foye dripping big wet tears from her eyes. They each describe being in the state of not knowing, and though knowing is usually a prerequisite to loving, they love fully without knowing fully. A video depicting days gone by, featuring people gone by, appears on a wall.
closes June 26, 2016
Details and tickets
We are invited to participate, via a brief note which the artists distribute to each of us. The type is too small for me to read in the diminished light, but sharper-eyed audience members clue me in; we are to walk the labyrinth and deposit the notes in the center. This I do dutifully, observing the pictures, which reinforce the video.
I must say that some of this was lost on me. Had there been no labyrinth, had there been no audience participation, had there been no clothes-lines, I believe that the effect would have been just as powerful. But because the effect was powerful, I recommend that you go.
Entanglement features Claire Alrich, Maryam Foye, and Britney Mongold.