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Impressions of: The Supper

Impressions of: The Supper
Christine Jowers/Follow @christinejowers on Twitter

By Christine Jowers/Follow @christinejowers on Twitter
View Profile | More From This Author

Published on September 13, 2011
Matthew Murphy

This isn't meant to be a pretty party.

The Supper
at Triskelion Arts in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn-Sept 8th, 2011
Created by Rachel Mckinstry and Liz Riga in Collaboration with the performers:
Matthew Baker, Patrick Ferreri, Richert Schnorr, Fade Kainer and Jeff Poulin
Original Sound: Fade Kainer
Lighting: Andrew Dickerson
Costume: Jeff Poulin
 

 
The stage is set up to look like the interior of a meat locker. It is surrounded by plastic reminiscent of the strips that keep cold in so the carcasses do not rot. No matter what happens, no matter how warm the lights get or how the focus may shift to other places on stage, those plastic walls are always there, reminding you that this is a place of dead flesh.

 

LET’S GET VISCERAL

Christine Jowers © September 2011 for The Dance Enthusiast

 
There is a moment in The Supper when the cast gathers downstage to create a portrait. It is snapshot of scientists and subjects, characters complicit in an odd bubble of a world that has nothing to do with the joy of food. This supper demonstrates a variety of ways that people feed on (or off) of one another and it isn’t meant to be a pretty party.                                         
The Cast of The Supper Photo © Matthew Murphy
 A pasty wiry man with blonde spidery dread locks stares at us from the seat of a wheel chair. He is half bored and half accusing -- a sinister
This supper demonstrates a variety of ways that people feed on (or off) of one another and it isn’t meant to be a pretty party.                                         
Stephen Hawking. We meet him, intent on his computer, as the evening begins. He is Fade Kainer the musician who creates the gnashing tiger growls, loud beats, and an undercurrent of chomping sounds that get The Supper rolling. Later, he disappears, but his driving amalgam of sounds continues to move the work.
 
We see two guys dressed in crisp white. They are somewhat antiseptic fellows who I’ll refer to as the scientist and his assistant. The scientist, small framed, with close cropped neat hair, wears a very au currant fitted lab coat and dons black work boots against naked legs. He is the first character to move. He enters the space pacing mechanically at right angles around the outlines of the darkness. He inspects his area with the assistance of a tiny flashlight. Though we can’t fully see him at first, we hear in his step the rigid determination of a soldier of the SS. Throughout the evening this figure enters and exits the stage boldly and coldly--at one point stepping between writhing
Liz Riga, Patrick Ferreri, and Richert Schnorr, Photo© Michael Murphy
bodies while sipping a dignified cup of tea, at another administering communion wafers (a.k.a. the body of Christ, speaking of feeding on flesh) to a hungry line of communing worshippers who can’t seem to get enough. The scientist observes. He takes notes. He examines the situations on stage. He
That Richert Schnorr’s role is small and his movement is minimal is of no matter. His performance is so distinct, even his eyelashes are scary.
is above the fray and godlike yet he looks like he could easily belong in an underground club in  Berlin. That Richert Schnorr’s role is small and his movement is minimal is of no matter. His performance is so distinct, even his eyelashes are scary. He sets the eerie tone for the evening and at the end of the night a slight variation on his opening walk reveals that his cool decisive demeanor has been cracked. We are left uneasy. The assistant, Jeff Poulin, the other guy in crisp white, is a brawny mohawked mountain of a man reigned in by a tight starched nurse’s mini-dress. Though his muscles seem about to explode out of his work boots (and threaten to do the same from his tiny dress) he doesn’t do much physically except fulfill orders. He comes in, sits down, stares into space, moves people about like dolls, undresses them, and re-outfits them.
The Diners at The Table , Photo © Matthew Murphy

The rest of the party in the portrait is a group of four distinctly attractive and well turned out people (two men and two women) who stare out at us with blank hollow eyes and uneasy forced smiles. Who are they? What is their story? What is happening to them? These are questions we ask throughout the night.
...oddly intriguing and absurd -- two of my favorite qualities. Something isn’t quite right with this situation and as a viewer you want to find out what.
 
We meet the diners gathered at a long table that rests on a diagonal close to the audience-a tableau of stilted, perhaps bored (?), mannequin-like folk. Rachel Mckinstry, a very white skinned, cherry-lipped woman with silky, jet black short hair (think Snow White meets Sally Bowles) empties a bowl of silverware onto the table. The attractive diners begin to interact with their cutlery. Liz
Rachel Mckinstry , photo by Matthew Murphy
Riga, seated, hair upswept, diamonds glittering off her neck, moves languidly and ladylike, as Matthew Baker and Patrick Ferreri (more disheveled than the ladies, but still, it’s “model” scruffy) organize the silver in piles. Riga floats in a time zone completely different to the others. As her gestures waft in space, she rests an ear to the eating tools as if to hear them talking. It is oddly intriguing and absurd - two of my favorite qualities. Something isn’t quite right with this situation and as a viewer you want to find out what.
 
The evening is dedicated to the experience of this dining crew as they move through an assortment of episodes at the table and away from it. Triggered by changes in music, lighting, or whim, shifts
 Patrick Ferreri, Liz Riga,Matthew Baker, and Mckinstry ,Photo © Matthew Murphy
occur. The diners shiver, hyperventilate and experience mini-seizures. They freeze and degenerate with microscopic movements. Mckinstry, walks away from her table cradling her forks, knives and spoons as if to protect them from the fierce Arctic winds blowing in the sound score. At one moment her utensils are children, but seconds later, after they clang to the floor, she writhes on top of them dreamily, as if just finishing a long session of lovemaking. Baker looks on while clutching a round glass vessel to his chest, an empty heart perhaps? The diners cue up to take communion
At one moment her utensils are children, but seconds later, after they clang to the floor, she writhes on top of them dreamily, as if just finishing a long session of lovemaking.
piously from the scientist, then mutate into ravenous inhabitants of an insane asylum grabbing for much needed doses of happy meds. They transform their table from one full of cutlery to another filled with chalices, vases and wine decanters. The women change outfits on stage (never the guys).  While many of these scenarios are cryptically compelling, it’s just too much odd information on my plate. It is the difference between being mysterious and confusing. In order to savor the bizarre aspects of the evening I search for clarification- a through line, no matter how jagged.
Riga, Photo © Matthew Murphy
 
Some of the most specific and stirring moments occur when the four diners completely utilize their bodies and full out movement technique to be as crazy and broken as their characters can be.
Much of the first part of the evening is dedicated to reacting, looking, walking, and standing--gliding from one theatrical activity to another without much movement. Performers work a lifetime to be able to fully inhabit “stillness” and simple gesture on stage. That kind of work is tough to pull off successfully, especially in the context of rapidly changing, sometimes unclear scenarios. The “men in white” of The Supper, Schnoor and Poulin, the scientist and his assistant, also perform very simple non-dance movement, but as their characters are drawn so specifically, it does not detract and, in fact, seems a dramatic necessity. We know who these
The Diners, Photo © Matthew Murphy
fellows are, so as an audience, it is easier to take them in, register their changes and stay with them whatever their actions. The diners aren’t as clearly drawn.
 
Some of the most specific and stirring moments occur when the four diners
...they grab each other’s faces, necks and arms with such raging hunger you sense that ,at any moment, they might tear off a body part of and fling it into the audience. It is dangerous. It is thrilling.
Give me more.
completely utilize their bodies and full out movement technique to be as crazy and broken as their characters can be. Riga is a gorgeous Amazonian banshee of a dancer. When her leg flies into the air the space reverberates, so does her partner Matthew Baker. She flings him about. He flings her. They look like they are going to devour each other. In a twisted waltz they grab each other’s faces, necks and arms with such raging hunger you sense that, at any moment, they might tear off a body part of and fling it into the audience. It is dangerous. It is thrilling. Give me more. Mckinstry, a delicate boned wisp of a woman, moves with refined detail coupled with that magical quality one is awestruck by in really fine street dancers-- the ability to appear as if a force other than one’s own volition is manipulating the artist to move. Mckinstry glides from one complex contortion to another, sometimes moving like a toyed with soulless doll, then with the determination and precision of GI Jane-who does her movement for herself and by herself, thank you very much.
 Baker, Photo © Matthew Murphy
 
The Supper is set up to be an edgy science fiction horror show so I was perplexed when elements rang out as vague or skimming the surface of provocative instead of reaching inward for the bloody guts. In a duet between Mckinstry and Ferreri where she runs straight ahead into an audience member to peer off the stage, I wanted to shout, “Explode! Why is she running out and attempting to break the fourth wall? It didn’t read as a necessary, as
Ferreri and Riga, Photo © Matthew Murphy
something her character “had” to do. When Ferreri reaches for her neck and grazes her crotch to carry her backward to him, I want to ask, “Why are you being so tentative? Grab her crotch and haul her off or at least build up to it.” If this is a piece dealing with themes of violence, and terror and human
The Supper...demands to be dug  into, viscera revealed.







experimentation (which certainly seems to be the case) then why are you being so polite? Also, I didn’t understand why the gals took their clothes off on stage and changed into men’s clothes. They looked wonderful, but what was the point? I was unclear. Was that supposed to say something about gender? It seemed more of a fashion statement, or a “look” than anything developmentally crucial. And why is it that only the women shed their frocks in this tortured land?
 
The Supper experiments with the darker forces of nature. Filled with fascinating concepts, imagery, characters, symbols and intelligence, it is a work worthy of clear bold choices. It demands to be dug  into, viscera revealed.
 
Mckinstry and Riga, Photo © Matthew Murphy
 
 
 
 
 
 

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