IMPRESSIONS OF: JOHANNES WIELAND

IMPRESSIONS OF: JOHANNES WIELAND

Published on July 22, 2010

Roadkill
American premiere of a new evening length piece at Dance Theater Workshop
NYC, NY- Friday July 9, 2010

Choreography Johannes Wieland
Performed by Eva Mohn and Ryan Mason
With original sound score by Ben Frost

By Cory Nakasue © 2010

Waiting To Go

…and waiting, and waiting, and waiting; watching Eva Mohn and Ryan Mason hug the upstage wall of Dance Theater Workshop like to two people on the ledge of building. They move along the wall in painstakingly detailed slow motion, in silence amongst the rest of the set: a floor to ceiling projection of an airport runway, autumn leaves scattered on the ground, a naked tree branch hanging from the ceiling, loudspeakers placed at both ends of the stage, and runway edge lights indicating an airport landing strip.
 
roadkill
Eva Mohn and Ryan Mason
Photo: Nils Klinger

The full house of theater-goers were left to contemplate this tableau (or talk to their neighbor) for several minutes before hearing an un-miked voice from the back of the theater announce, “we are having technical difficulties with the video and should have the problem resolved in five minutes.” This is not part of Johannes Weiland’s Roadkill, but it could be.
 
roadkill
Eva Mohn and Ryan Mason
Photo: Nils Klinger

All of sudden a surge of sympathy for the performers is aroused in the audience, as we are now all in this together—waiting—wondering, looking for a sign. They keep moving silently in slow motion, and the heightened awareness between Mohn and Mason is palpable to a degree I wish they could have sustained for the duration of the piece.

An image flickers on the screen long enough for a relieved audience to burst into applause—false alarm. We are in purgatory. How fitting that Weiland’s set is an airport landing strip. The tarmac an existential landscape where time, space, and expectations are suspended…
 
roadkill
Eva Mohn and Ryan Mason
Photo: Nils Klinger

…and then we begin. Or, should I say continue? This unplanned opening thoroughly captured a sensation of ambiguity that the rehearsed piece could only exposit. A live-action Mohn and Mason are joined by their video alter egos on location, an abandoned landing strip. Onscreen Mason bursts into (lip synched) song. While crooning and hamming up the standard “You Belong To Me,” Mohn joins him in a mock-ballroom dance like two children playing at being grown-ups. This section securely characterizes the video counterparts; a slightly superior and freewheeling couple who seem to be handling their situation with far more aplomb than their perpetually stressed-out live-action selves.
 
roadkill
Eva Mohn and Ryan Mason
Photo: Nils Klinger

The 10-foot-tall couple projected on screen looks down on Mohn and Mason mockingly, often advising them to "lighten up" and have fun. The projected couple out of frustration with their lack of purpose starts repeating the word "FUN" for what seems like fifteen minutes accompanied by a chaotic milieu of catwalk poses, high-flying karate kicks, wind sprints, and cute camera tricks. As the performers get more manic and exhausted, we see the facade of fun crumble as they realize they're not really having any. An existential metaphor or:
 
roadkill
Eva Mohn and Ryan Mason
Photo: Nils Klinger

Director's note:
roadkill explores my fascination with the subconscious and its power
to conduct one through life. As we fight and agree with ourselves, we
are trying to understand who we are. But will we ever do so? Maybe we
don't need to.”—Johannes Weiland

Roadkill exhibits less of the Freudian and presents the earmarks of a Waiting for Godot cover. The characters explore their environment in great detail--finding some roadkill, try to amuse themselves with games and jokes, there is some talk of a plan, they wait for
signals--"did you hear that?” oh, and they dance.
 
roadkill
Eva Mohn and Ryan Mason
Photo: Nils Klinger

The movement runs the gamut from gestural to gymnastic, all performed with athletic virtuosity by Mohn and Mason. What they lacked in chemistry and acting skills they made up for in visually striking contortions and bounding energy. The choreography itself is a beautiful element that sits alongside all the other beautiful elements of this piece (set, video, music by Ben Frost) without managing to strike up a conversation with them.
 
roadkill
Eva Mohn and Ryan Mason
Photo: Nils Klinger

Roadkill
closes with a heartbreakingly fine-featured Mohn asking a godless universe, "Can we undo everything?” The live-action and projected couple move in perfect retrograde to a retrograde "You Belong to Me", this time lip-synched by Mohn.

They sit. They wait.
 
roadkill
Eva Mohn and Ryan Mason
Photo: Nils Klinger
 
The Dance Enthusiast

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