Fuerza Bruta: Look Up
nytheatre.com review by Jack Hanley
October 19, 2007
There is something happening at the corner of 15th and Union Square East, something that lifts us away from our heavy steps and hard thoughts and gives us wings—something that is joy. A large old Romanesque building that once housed a bank now houses a new, fantastic sensorial journey called Fuerzabruta. It comes from the minds of two creators of another alternative cosmos—the hit show De La Guarda. As thrilling as that show was, creator and director Diqui James returns with a more substantial creation that reaches us not just by its technical thrills but by James's more mature understanding of the common human struggle to transcend all the vicissitudes of life.
And transcend we do. From the moment we walk into the enormous space the experience begins. The excitement is palpable. Bathed in red light, moving in and out of the shadows, we feel we are more than an audience—we feel we are the ones who will conjure the visions and the sounds to come.
A man. He's walking above us in place, walking with unflinching conviction. And then we begin to forget the 15-foot-long conveyer belt he's on. Soon all machinery behind the magic disappears from our consciousness. He walks in space. A concrete wall appears. He runs, smashes through it, we hear the explosion, see the wall obliterate into strips of paper flying through the air. Then another wall, and another. We cheer for him. We know the road he walks. Then the wind comes and the rain. Now he's really in for it.
The space darkens. The music becomes more delicate. And from far above us we see something glowing, a shape descending, indiscernible, and then at last we see what it couldn't possibly be. It is two beings facing each other and between them is a large puddle of water. Yes, that is the best way I can describe it—a luminous puddle of water floating above us with two beings moving around each side of its surface. And yes, your jaw will drop.
I would need too much good poetry to be able to describe all the extraordinary things that happen in Fuerzabruta, especially when we discover ourselves beneath the swirling tides of an enormous body of water descending until it is only inches above our heads. Sliding in the waves of the water are aquatic beings staring at us, trying to understand us, as we try to understand them.
But poetry may also be necessary to properly praise the incredible array of talent that makes this show possible. There are 13 agile performers who inhabit this universe, and each one is virtuosic in his or her physicality, each one performs with delirious passion, and each one gracefully complements the other. Jason Novak stands out with his bombastic performance on the conveyer belt; he is no less a matador masterful over his bull. Diqui James has directed each of his performers with precision and with a mystical vision of movement.
The lighting design by Edi Pampn is exquisite. It is an essential element for an immersive theater experience, and Pampn succeeds in every nook and cranny of the super-sized space. Costume designer Andrea Mattio also deserves special mention. Her costumes are flawlessly symbiotic with the atmosphere, and they subtly facilitate the characterization of each performer.
My only criticism of the show is the sound design by Hernan Nupieri and music composition by Gaby Kerpel. It's a lot of good, thumping dance music with a mix of some ambient sounds, and it certainly helps get our pulses racing. It provides sort of a European dance club feel. But, consequently, it sounds dated in New York City and, more problematic, provides little context to the visuals. Yes, there's an explosion here and there, but the show deserves a much more sophisticated soundscape.
But there's so much there there in Fuerzabruta that perhaps I'm asking for too much. Personally, seeing it once was definitely not enough. I have every intention of returning to Fuerzabruta. It is by my estimate the most exciting theatre happening in New York City and to miss it would be a bitter regret for any theater lover or any lover of joy.