STALKING CHRISTOPHER WALKEN
nytheatre.com review by Eric Winick
The trouble with most company-created performance art is that it only
seems to connect with its audience 25% of the time. Given that company
members are usually involved with a piece from its inception, the
resulting show inevitably means more to them than to the audience, which
often must labor in vain to explicate scraps of found text, random
bursts of movement, and monologues intoned into ubiquitous microphony.
In the end, you either take something away from it, or you sit there,
August 15, 2002
Fortunately, one takes quite a bit away from Venus Fly Trap’s Stalking Christopher Walken, a free-associative romp through the psyche of that most inscrutable of actors. Stalking has all the hallmarks of the downtown avant-garde, including vibrant dance pieces, a terrific sound design (by Perchik Miller), spoken word interludes, and, presumably, a mad genius at the helm: Gabriel Grilli, who seems hell-bent on aping such avant-illuminati as Elevator Repair Service founder John Collins and Gale Gates chieftain Michael Counts.
Of the speaking/dancing portion of the eight-member ensemble, there’s not a weak link in the bunch, from Tina Manchise’s lovely Natalie Wood to Javier Cobo’s impossibly cool Walken impersonator. The two dance an impassioned pas-de-deux, and the scene in which Wood’s death-by-drowning is reenacted is a masterpiece of theatrical economy. Best of all is Mario Tomic as a wordless Walken whose chiseled features never betray emotion, even while being lap-danced, and whose looks are eerily close to the real thing.
Unfortunately, Stalking suffers from a surfeit of, dare I say, excess baggage. The piece’s stronger moments are lost amidst bewildering scenes of squawking aliens, rampaging skate punks, calls from movie studios, Hungarian gypsies, and Russian princesses. Stalking works best when showcasing the work of choreographer Dana Ruttenberg, making one wonder what qualities the piece might take on if Mr. Grilli ever combined these scenes with his spoken-word sections, which feature excerpts from interviews with Walken himself.
Far be it from me to pontificate, but with this much talent on display, one wishes Venus Fly Trap would let the audience in just a little bit more.