Garden of Earthly Delights
nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
November 15, 2008
Bosch's piece is colorful and busy, often said to be centered around life's temptations: It features nude figures in sexual acts as well as giant fruits and fantastical animals. It is on its own a spectacle, and that's what I'd been thinking I would see in this piece at the Minetta Lane.
The performance itself certainly involves a decadence and sensuality, however the lack of color and the subdued set separate it from the Bosch-like spectacle I'd come expecting. The background is the theatre's charcoal brick wall, which certainly evokes more of an ominous, somber tone than a frenetic hallucinogenic quality. There is more of a clean, streamlined effect to the look of this piece. Certainly it would be hard to duplicate the painting per se without using multilevel stages, however the use of wires here seemed an opportunity to go even further.
The show itself is a dance performance, not so much dance as in pirouettes or grand athletic feats, rather movement, with much running and ecstatic hair tossing and chest thrusting. In the first act, dancers wear nude body stockings, and in the second they wear a more humble old-fashioned townsfolk garb. Men in monklike cloaks play cello and wind instruments. There is a somewhat primitive and slightly dark feel to this, and overall very earthy.
While this piece debuted in 1984, I can't help but feel there's a strong '70s element in it. Maybe it's the hippieish folks in body stockings tossing their long hair, or the free spirit orgiastic nature, or the guy running around with branches on his head. Either way, there is a freedom and fun to this show.
I will say the second act boggled me a bit. The dancers come out in modest clothing and then someone drops a sack of potatoes, someone else drops a barrel of potatoes, and the townsfolk scramble for the potatoes. Someone starts eating the potatoes. Someone else starts barfing up the potatoes, resulting in real live spitting out some stuff I wasn't too happy to see. There's also something involving a woman who seems to be blind, the folks throw potatoes at her, and she is later hoisted up on the wire. The narrative point did not come across to me, but that's no matter really because it was all entertaining enough to watch. There's a bunch of caressing, a woman temptingly biting an apple, people laughing maniacally for a brief moment, men holding sticks between their legs and jiggling them as though mockingly implying phalluses, and for a brief period, a booming drum.
There is wire work here, credited to FOY, with flying consultant David Hale. I wish there had been more of this. Not only because it's a joy to watch, but because it would have contributed to the ecstatic wildness which I believed this piece tried to convey.
While I didn't walk out of the theatre invigorated or shocked or feeling like I'd been actually on a trip through the garden of earthly delights, I did feel that I'd had an enjoyable hour of dance-performance theatre.