Unexpected language and theatricality make this live experience all new. Underneath, a relatively normal story. But oh how it’s told. The Bushwick Starr has created a thriving home for avant garde theatre that attracts sold out houses of young New Yorkers. And that’s the most impressive show of them all.
If you’ve seen some of the high energy shows Artistic Director Susan Feldman has brought to Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse over the years, the moment you walk in to the new 29 Jay Street location and glimpse the set for MIES JULIE, the stunning production from the University of Capetown’s Baxter Theatre Centre now extended through December 16, you know you’re in for yet another wild ride.
Reminiscent of other fire breathing events of almost unbearable intensity that have come to this stealth space in DUMBO (Druid Ireland’s productions of THE WALWORTH FARCE and THE NEW ELECTRIC BALLROOM by Enda Walsh come to mind), the design is simple, yet worn and gritty. It is harsh. It is not safe. It’s definitely not kitchen sink naturalism – though there is a sink and we’re in the kitchen. Red is a recurring color. There are a lot of sharp, rusty tools leaning against walls: That doesn’t look good. Smoke wafts up toward a single rotating fan, and sustained single notes from a live saxophone signal the trance that will soon envelop you.
This simple, timeless show keeps the needle stuck at 11 on the emotional dial for an uninterrupted 90 minutes, and the effect is profound. Both the emotions and the bodies are naked. For this is a mythic theatre of images. What you see will stay with you for some time after the lights come up.
And that may not be a good thing.
No New York theatre trip feels quite complete without a visit to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.
Recently relocated to 29 Jay Street in DUMBO (just in time for Sandy), a few blocks away from Water Street, where they have been the last few years, St. Ann’s is a model of international presenting. Artistic Director Susan Feldman travels the world’s theatre festivals and brings home the very best. It’s a great concept, somewhat akin to what happens during Portland’s TBA festival. Could a year round theatre in Portland presenting top flight international shows work?
The wall of past show posters inside the entrance is hard to look at, because you instantly want to see them all. Many New York season highlights have made their way through this configurable space over the years, including Druid Ireland’s productions of THE WALWORTH FARCE, THE NEW ELECTRIC BALLROOM, and PENELOPE (all by Enda Walsh), and The National Theatre of Scotland’s unstoppable BLACK WATCH.
St. Ann’s is a force. You wouldn’t know from the outside that this old warehouse has some of the best theatre in town.