New York Is Here! New York Is Here!
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
July 7, 2006
E.B. White, in his timeless and insightful (and even a little prophetic) portrait of New York City lifestyle titled Here is New York, hits the nail on the head when he says, "It [New York] carries on its lapel the inexpugnable odor of the long past, so that no matter where you sit in New York you feel the vibrations of great times and tall deeds..."
Indeed this city has a great and at times tragic history. Aaron Rosenblum takes a stab at presenting us with some of its great and tragic moments in a unique format. New York is Here! New York is Here! is a site-specific performance held in the basement of the lovely 1930s art deco AT&T building. The audience is led around the space to witness a series of short scenes that illustrate various moments from the city's past. Some of these moments are great technical achievements like the construction of our water tunnels, while others fall under the category of urban legend such as the story of the Chinese man stuck in an elevator for over three days. Other stories focus on the seedy underbelly of New York history, like gangland murders and suicidal prostitutes.
One of the first things that struck me was the beautiful piano music played live and superbly composed by George Francois. Francois sets the mood perfectly and never lets it slip away. Carrie Wood has lit the basement with red bulbs and spotlights creating a nice complement to Francois's mood music. There are essentially no sets, just a chair here and there, but Hannah Price has designed a suitable labyrinth in which the audience cannot see what will happen next until we are moved there.
The ensemble does a great job with movement that is not exactly interpretive dance and not pantomime either but rather something in between. There are very few words spoken onstage with most of the text being presented as voiceover. The one monologue that is spoken onstage is not only a fresh breath of air after oh so much voiceover but it's also a very interesting piece about a conversation with a sparrow. I believe it is Aaron Unger who does this monologue and he deserves a nod for a job well done.
Director Aaron Rosenblum presents us with a unique vision and uses his cast very well to make that vision clear but there is something very essential missing from this production...namely interesting text. The voiced-over historic facts are just that—historical facts. There is no delving into the mind of the subject, no back story that no one has ever heard, no speculating as to what effects on the human condition these facts may have had. I love history but this production doesn't make history much more interesting than a text book. The voiceover work is a bit stiff, monotone and unmoving. It reminded me of an audio tour that one might get in a museum. Rosenblum is without a doubt a talented and visionary director, but this production never takes the time to delve. And, for me at least, delving into a subject is one of the main purposes of theatre.
Still, if you are interested in this great city's history this show might be right up your alley. It's free and a mere 30 minutes long.