The Wild Finish
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
February 7, 2012
The road to discovering one’s roots can be filled with as much surprise as enlightenment. It is, however, no surprise that Monica Hunken’s road to discovery is an incredible journey presented with extraordinary skill, style and energy.
Hunken begins the evening with an invitation. We are gathered in the ice cold basement of a space that looks more like a squat house than a decades-old performance space when she pops her head in and begins speaking to us in a thick Polish accent and beckons us to follow her. We soon discover that she has been biking across a frigid Polish landscape in search of more information about her late grandfather’s life. Her inspiration for all this started when she became involved in a Jerzy Grotowski workshop and learned that her grandfather not only knew Grotowski but actually worked with him. So she set out to bridge this gap in her knowledge of her family history by tracing her grandfather’s life in Poland before it was invaded by Germany. Along the way she encounters an assortment of characters from anarchist punk bike messengers to the last surviving member of Grotowski’s company. She also uncovers some things that perhaps she didn’t want to know about but in the end they help her understand a few things about herself.
Hunken is a mesmerizing performer. She unwaveringly held my gaze throughout the show with her physicality and honesty. She fully embodies each and every character she introduces us to because she has no fear and no inhibitions. She uses her entire body with both fluid grace and gripping realism. Hunken has a passion for this sort of performance—fire in her belly—and she draws on that strength to deliver an intricate performance that will surely leave you wanting more. It is clear through her openness and physicality that she took her Grotowski training to heart. From the very first invitation to come into the performance space to the open invitation into her life she invites us to come along on what Grotowski would call her “total act” as she candidly reveals herself to us.
The script, penned by Hunken, is beautifully written. It introduces some unforgettable characters and leads us through some rather scary situations. Hunken is not only fearless on stage, she is fearless in life. Biking through some places can be dangerous but she sees it as an adventure—as a way to gather material for new and interesting stories. Her director, Melissa Chambers, does an excellent job prodding the piece into an elegant and compelling performance. The limited lighting is well designed by Evan True and the sound and music (Xana Chambers and Benjamin Cerf) fill the piece with zeal. I also enjoyed the slide show at the end that shows us the actual people she’s been impersonating—reminding us that they are real.
Once again Hunken has created a truly inspired production. She is whole-hearted in her creativity and to experience her show is akin to finding a lost item that you loved and thought you’d never see again.