SHOW: This is Not for You
GROUP: Elbow Room Performance
ATTENDED: Sept. 6, 6 p.m., Pig Iron School Studio 1 at Crane Old School
CLOSES: Sept. 7
BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: "In a Platonic dialogue interrupted by movement, music, and memory, award-winning Swiss opera director Julie Beauvais and American director/performer Jon Foley Sherman explore the limits and possibilities of solitude."
WE THINK: The central tension of Beauvais and Sherman’s This is Not for You is articulated by its two writer/director/performers before the show even begins in earnest: Beauvais believes that solitude is necessary; Sherman believes that it’s impossible. In tackling a philosophical question of such magnitude, it’s not surprising that this genre-confounding piece never arrives at a clear solution of these opposing views. In fact, one of This is Not for You’s strengths is the way it manages to communicate these seemingly conflicting positions at the same time — down to the very seating arrangement. The chairs in This is Not for You’s sterile studio backdrop are arranged almost at random, so that no two audience members are sitting quite beside each other. The result is at once alienating and yet strangely communal; though everyone must functionally sit by themselves, each person is able to see the rest of the audience much more clearly than they would in a traditional seating arrangement.
This is Not for You is also full of striking and surprising movements. At one point, Beauvais visibly struggles to heave a large rock while speaking in French about her secluded Swiss apartment. Later, Sherman stands over a sheet of clear plastic as Beauvais pours cups of water over his face and clothes. Though visually engaging, it is not always easy to decipher exactly what relevance these moments have to elaborating the show’s professed theme. The performance’s more self-consciously avant garde elements are beautiful to watch, but also in danger of coming across as hollow.
Ultimately, This is Not for You is an affecting, if sometimes baffling, experience. Beauvais and Sherman might not succeed in convincing audience members one way or the other on the question of solitude, but it would be difficult to leave Old Crane School without a heightened awareness of what it does and doesn’t mean to be alone.
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