nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
November 5, 2009
Cicatrix (spelled with an "i" rather than a "y") means a kind of scar; I can't find adaptitude in my American Heritage Dictionary. Not that I'm surprised that Kirk Wood Bromley might be making up some new words for the title of his new show. The whole first act of Cycatrix Adaptitude is a fanciful stream-of-consciousness parade of wordplay, filled with witty and sometimes groan-worthy puns, poetic flights of fancy, arresting imagery, and dense monologues and dialogues that, yes, occasionally seem to include new words (or at least words I've never heard before). For fans of Bromley's singular style, it's a—I was about to write "roller coaster ride," but I realized that's too passive to depict the experience. No, this is a bit like running a marathon behind somebody who's way better trained than you: it's exhilarating and fun but may leave you breathless before it's over.
The format of Cycatrix Adaptitude is unlike anything Bromley and his company, Inverse Theater, have tried before. The piece is being staged in various apartments in NYC (though the performance I attended was, anomalously, presented at a modest, intimate space in a recreation center in Alphabet City). The atmosphere is that of a party: you are actually announced upon entry, as if you were a dignitary arriving at an embassy ball. There's drink available and an air of informality that feels authentically, rather than studiedly, casual.
When it's time for the show to start, Bromley—who directs as well as wrote this piece—provides some basic info. What we're about to see, he tells us, is a translation of an entertainment he found in Romania, featuring its author/star ("The Maestro"), its choreographer, its musician, and its four female performers. It consists of a live portion that lasts just over an hour, followed by an intermission, followed by a 28-minute film. This is all mostly true.
How do I describe Act One? Translating the nonlinear linking of classic Monty Python shows to the Internet Age, it's like live web surfing; the transitions feel like following hyperlinks. Bromley sometimes even hits the "back" button on his live-action browser to return us to stuff we thought we'd left behind. To continue, and perhaps strain, my analogy: some of the sites we venture to are quick hits that make us laugh, while others are dense and filled with text that's sometimes hard to parse. Everywhere we go is surprising. The main keywords seem to be: movies, reality, money, dreams, fame, hope, and me. Us.
Now, how do I describe Act Two? The easy way is to say that it's almost nothing like Act One. To begin, it is indeed a film, and it's as still and austere as Act One is varied and manic. It's pensive and introspective. It seems to be about recapturing connectedness—to ourselves and to each other. It felt like it could be intended as a parody at first, so I was caught unawares by its low-key profundity. When all was concluded, I was moved in a way I didn't expect.
Frequent Inverse collaborators Karen Flood, Jane Stein, and John Gideon do their trademark extraordinary work in the costume, visual design, and music departments, respectively. (Gideon actually runs the sound and performs the music live.) The five actors, all exemplary, are Mick O'Brien, Josephine Cashman, Sarah Engelke, Denice Kondik, and Beth Ann Leone. Leah Schrager is the choreographer. (Did I mention that there's a good deal of singing and dancing?)
If you're familiar with Bromley's oeuvre—the early verse plays like Want's Unwish't Work and Icarus and Aria, or the later performance experiments like Me and Untitled—you will be both prepared and unprepared for Cycatrix Adaptitude. He's going somewhere new here, moving toward something lighter and sparer and more mobile and still untested; to continue the high-tech analogy I used before (which reflects, by the way, much of the content and style of this show), this is the iPhone or Droid beta release of the Bromley/Inverse Theater application we've been seeing for more than a decade. This new interface fuels invention, which I am excited about.