nytheatre.com review by Anthony C.E. Nelson
April 6, 2007
3-Legged Dog's production of Losing Something represents the first American theatrical appearance of a device that recreates one of every actor's fears for the future: that we're all going to be replaced by technical elements. The holographic projections that dominate the proceedings here are indeed impressive, but the show is unfortunately little more than an hour-long excuse to use them.
The play's unnamed central character (Aldo Perez) dissects over the course of an hour the malaise that his life has fallen into as he approaches middle age. In the first half of the play, he hunts and pecks through the wild sexual excess of his college years and the despair he fell into after September 11th. Around him are grainy holographic images of a stumbling old man and a nude woman who speaks to him intimately but lies on her back kicking in the air and playing with a stuffed toy like a baby. Occasionally, we see falling bodies, a reference both to September 11th and Perez's unmoored life.
The play shifts when one of those bodies lands with a thud, his neck crooked at an impossible angle. This turns out to be Daniel (Michael Bell), the friend Perez has been missing since his suicide. Up until this point, the holographic projections have been interesting, but have looked like something out of a '70s science fiction film, grainy and flickering. When Daniel makes his appearance on stage crawling down from the ceiling, it took me several minutes to realize that the actor was not actually suspended there. He is joined on stage by a trio of female performers (Catherine Yeager, Victoria Chamberlin, Livia De Paolis), to complete what was apparently a five person relationship, now reunited.
Perez tries to ascertain the whys and hows of Daniel's suicide, but unfortunately from this intriguing set-up the play rapidly devolves into philosophical mumbo-jumbo, and the last half of the play is spent debating perceptions of reality and time and whether one character exists in another's head or not. Despite the impressive technical wizardry, the audience rapidly became restive as the play lost its way—there was a noticeable amount of shifting in seats and checking of watches.
Kevin Cunningham, the writer, director, and designer of this piece, has integrated the Eyeliner technology, which makes the holographic projections possible, into every moment of this piece, yet rarely is it for strong effect. This most impressive projection system, wherein the movement of live actors under the stage is captured on video and projected onto stage in real-time, is used simply to make four characters hang upside down for the entire second half of the play. The technology is on loan from 3-Legged Dog's "Danish Partners" Vision 4, and has been used primarily in higher budget events like the Grammy Awards. Cunningham's script contains some striking moments, but doesn't particularly go anywhere. It falls into a trap that a lot of recent writers have; proclaiming that "everything changed" after September 11th, and then not showing any particular way in which the character's life became different.
Of the performers, Michael Bell makes the strongest impression as the charming Daniel. The female actors make the best of what they are given to work with, which isn't much. Aldo Perez, as the play's central character, is flat and not particularly believable as the wildly experimental sexual being the text describes.
There is great potential for this technology, but it is not on display in this production, which can best be summed up by a remark made by Perez's character a little over halfway through the show: "What the fuck am I doing here? I've said everything I wanted to say?" Yet the play keeps going.