Reviews NYCOff-Broadway Published 13 January 2016

Intimacy

New Ohio Theater ⋄ 11th - 16th January 2016

Getting to know you.

Molly Grogan
unspecified

Credit: Maria Baranova

Ranters Theater, from Melbourne, describes itself as “interested in the ordinary rituals of day-to-day living and the strange personal details that lie beneath the skin of social convention.” Intimacy, a piece developed from conversations with total strangers which Ranters brings to COIL, seems as good a demonstration of that mission as you could find.

Three actors on bar stools shoot the breeze. We don’t really imagine that the stories they tell are their own, yet their completely natural and unaffected delivery might eventually make us doubt that. Eventually too, though, those stories will raise some eyebrows. They introduce us to a mild-mannered school teacher who moonlights as a street performer specializing in bird impersonations (in a handmade lycra and papier-mâché outfit); a fit-looking young woman who is plagued by a form of insomnia bordering on mental illness; and a friendly thirty-something who has sexual fantasies about his friends and is obsessively self-conscious. Mmm… intimacy: everyone wants some, right? In this case, the opposite is true. These apparently ordinary, polite, soft-spoken people have secrets we’d probably rather not know.

Similarly, scratch the surface of this show, and a very particular intention begins to reveal itself, too. This one-hour piece presents as a therapy session or a conversation over drinks and may well reproduce verbatim Ranters‘ questioning of those Melbourne strangers,   However, the unassuming, mostly bare set reveals, in fact, a very conscious and deliberate mise-en-scène. Every time a “character” begins his or her tale, a scrolling message board reads, in an ironic loop, “Hello. Excuse me… Goodbye.” A video portrait of the actor, groomed to look very shiny and clean compared to the more scruffy actor before us, is projected onto a large screen. There is also a guitar, but no one ever plays it, though for a minute it looks like one of the actors might.

Ranters’ interrogations intersect the work of artists like Forced Entertainment in the UK, Richard Maxwell’s New York City Players and TgSTAN in Belgium, all of whom challenge or eschew altogether the language of performance. Investigations like theirs are often unsettling, putting the audience in the difficult position of questioning their role in an act of theater that doesn’t seem to respect the theater contract at all, in which an actor performs and the audience receives that performance.

Ranters Theater poses a particular question, “How do people perform their lives?” It begs examining in Intimacy, as unremarkable as the show may appear.  All three stories come from  people who are trying to appear normal while living very unusual passions, illnesses and fantasies. It’s interesting that they all seem uneasy in everyday society yet resort to intensely performative actions as a release from other peoples’ gaze. One of these stories at least may be an extreme example of “performing one’s life,” but all three are conscious of playing at an idea of “normalcy” to which they do not conform.  Is living in society a performance by definition? If a tree falls with no one to hear it, does it make a sound?

Still waters run deep: it’s the case for those “regular” Melbournians, and so also for Intimacy and Ranters, with a heart for the untold stories, a soul that loves the stage and a mind interested in asking why.

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Molly Grogan

Molly is a New York Co-Editor for Exeunt.

Intimacy Show Info


Directed by Adriano Cortese

Cast includes Beth Buchanan, Adriano Cortese, Patrick Moffatt

Link COIL

Running Time 65 minutes

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