Theater / Performance, Visual Arts

The Adults (Painted Bride Art Center, 06Sep14)

What They Say It Is:

This is no run-of-the-mill vacation. Veteran and next-generation New Paradise Laboratories cast members come together to present the world premiere of The Adults, a multi-family vacation that takes an unexpected turn when adults start behaving badly. Influenced by Anton Chekhov and the paintings of Eric Fischl and set to a score by local experimental composer Bhob Rainey, The Adults is a highly physical show that explores intimate cruelty and shifting emotional landscapes.

NEW Clay Says graphic Ernie

The Adults was part of the annual, citywide FringeArts festival.  Honestly, the advertised shows for 2014 haven’t wowed me as much as in years past—in fact, this was the first time in years that we failed to buy any advance tickets.  With Pig Iron (a staple favorite of ours) staging a show about breakups (ug, what a bummer of a subject) and many of the other headline shows sounding either too dance-y (not my personal fav) or simply too ambiguous to warrant the ticket price, we were in danger of sitting out this year (For the record, Tara adores dance, so I’m speaking for myself when I vote against ballet, salsa, etc).  In this instance, Funsavers saved the day again by advertising discount tickets for this performance of The Adults.  Although the show didn’t turn out to be the favorite thing I’ve seen, I’d give it some positive marks for production and ambitiousness.

The advertised descriptions of the show were accurate; this theatrical work is about what you see as much as what it wants to say. Founded in a relationship to the artwork of Eric Fischl and incorporating the vibes of a (minimalist?) Chekhov play, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill, narrative-driven theater.  Instead, this was a near-silent exploration of portrait-like scenarios played out over 90 minutes.  Some of the show’s moments were really interesting and cool, utilizing actors like figures from an opera, embellishing even the smallest happenings with extreme movement and wild gestures . . but avoiding the use of spoken lines.  The sparse scenery hinted at a woodsy cabin for vacationing families, but simultaneously managed to feel haunting and odd (a looming, giant stuffed bear; an enormous wooden door, rarely opened).

Fischl's The Raft, 2007

Fischl’s The Raft, 2007

So, for what The Adults wanted to be, it was successful.  Mistrust, anger, mysterious people, oddworld dislocation—all of these were present.  The characters and setting were simultaneously vividly rendered but starkly empty; the inspiration of paintings and portraiture bled through into every scene; the show’s caustic spirit and sense of emptiness matched the lonely, deadly-silent experience of an art gallery

Unfortunately, as the opening minutes stretched into an hour-plus show, I can’t help but admit that I became a wee bit bored.  Silence and stillness can only carry one’s interest so far, and though I adore experimental art and silent film, The Adults often failed to keep my mind from wandering.  The Chekhov-esque plot was mildly interesting but slow to unfold, the moments of comedy were too spaced out, and the single-room setting meant that the entire show was simply comings-and-goings of the same (nearly silent) characters.  The Adults sees a vacation mutate slowly into an increasingly nightmarish weekend, and though the choreography and visual settings were striking . . . I never really bonded with the characters, or even care what happened to them.  Alienation and dislocation can be great aesthetic tools, but in this case, maybe they worked too well?

IMGA0295 IMGA0297 IMGA0296

This isn’t to say I thought The Adults was a failure; it just wasn’t captivating enough to justify the length of the show.

Imagine yourself looking at a series of paintings.  The works are excellent; there is color, light, ambiance, mood, faces, actions, motives, meaning, and countless other aspects to ponder.  But, as you reach the end of the gallery, having spent several minutes on each amazing image, the curator blocks the way out and demands that you to start over. So, you spend another hour looking at the same set of paintings, but nothing has changed.  It’s still the same group of haunting pictures.  Sure, you pick out some new details and find other aspects to consider—but by the time the gallery owner decides that you’re permitted to leave, you’ve become tired of the exhibit, and secretly wish you could have escaped a bit earlier.

Loved the concept; the actors were excellent; the marriage of still life and theater was certainly achieved.  Had The Adults included a little more emotion or any sort of lively dynamics, I’d have gone home with a more positive review.  Or at least have kept my mind attentive to the show.

NEW Tara Says Graphic

Unfortunately, due to a busy schedule and a middling reaction to the show, Tara decided she’s going to skip her entry for this performance.  We apologize for any inconvenience this causes for our loyal readership.  Leave her a comment to let her know you’re pissed!  ;’]

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