IMPRESSIONS: Faye Driscoll's "Weathering" at New York Live Arts
Weathering, April 5-15, 2023
Creator: New York Live Arts' 2021-2022 Randjelović/Stryker Resident Commissioned Artist Faye Driscoll
Performers: James Barrett, Kara Brody, Miguel Alejandro Castillo, Amy Gernux, Shayla-Vi Jenkins,
Jennifer Nugent, Cory Seals, Eliza Tappan, Carlo Antonio Villanueva, Jo Warren
Scenic Design by Jake Margolin and Nick Vaughan
Lighting Designer: Amanda K. Ringger
Sound and Music Director: Sophia Brous
Live Sound and Sound Designer: Ryan Gamblin
Composer, Field Recorder and Sound Designer: Guillaume Malaret
Costume Designer: Karen Boyer
Dramaturgist: Dages Juvelier Keates
Intimacy Coordinator: Yehuda Duenyas
A bespectacled man (James Barrett) dressed as a tourist replete with side pouch walks onstage and mounts the gleaming, spongy white square. The calved, polar ice-sized platform floats inches above New York Live Arts' stage, where Faye Driscoll’s Weathering received its premiere.
Three singers located behind and above the audience chant "teeth, skin, guts, mouth, hand, diaphragm, pupil, vein" — the human body is metaphorically dissected while constructed. With an expectant air, Barrett takes in the audience seated on the four sides of the platform. Joined by a white capped Amy Gernux, they gaze outward, and we, as they, are transfixed. One by one, two by two, performers, like animals on Noah's Ark, take refuge on the platform.
As performers join the singers, words overlap and build: “Oh, sweat; Oh, ache; Oh, breath; Oh, liver; Oh, headphones.” What we are made of corporeally and emotionally is listed like scientific classifications.
“Oh, fear; Oh, howl; Oh, heartbreak,” is intoned until the 10 compelling performers, intent on traveling somewhere, stop in their tracks.
'Weathering,' in geologic terms, is the process of dissolving. As the daughter of a geologist, I’ve hiked alluvial plains, sampled granite outcroppings and witnessed the result of long-ago volcanic upsurges. This to observe the wearing of earth’s bedrock strata and to screen glacial till, the particulate result of eons of weather — cooling, heating, water, wind — that works on rocks and minerals, the stuff of the earth.
Driscoll’s Weathering, 70 minutes of riveting, engrossing performance, an artistic triumph, comments on and equates the human condition with the dissolution of our natural environment. Our planet is imperiled to the point, as Driscoll so eloquently states, there is no escape.
Jennifer Nugent, a striking figure in a green canvas coat, with shaved head and black framed glasses, glacially shifts in an extreme spiraled lunge to connect with her near companion, the expressive Jo Warren. Others imperceptibly connect, too. Fingers tug on travelers’ mouths and grasp layers of everyday clothing to peel them away ever-so-slowly. After an extended tussle, Shayla Vie-Jenkins finally escapes her gold quilted coat.
All the while, black-clad stagehands on opposite corners push the platform counterclockwise, following the earth’s rotation, allowing the audience to experience an ever-evolving sculptural tableau. Clothing and other articles (the headphones!) are dropped to the ground in the wake of the moving platform. The stagehands stop the platform, pull out spray bottles and spritz the performers, as well as the audience, with the scent of savory herbs. We’ve become too hot.
The performers stretch to their limits and counterbalance one another to stay upright. Stagehands lie on the platform as they send the world spinning. Whooshing, fluttering, and breathing sounds allude to images of the tundra. Molted clothing and personal detritus litter the stage. Bodies, now exposed, twist uncomfortably. In their tender nakedness the performers grunt and pant with effort. We detect little sobs. As the platform revolves, performers crawl over one another to survive. The spritzing continues, while the bearded Cory Seals eats strawberries with nary a care.
Driscoll slips ice into Nugent’s mouth. Performers loudly sing “ahhh” into mouths and ears. Miguel Alejandro Castillo clasps Kara Brody, who crumples daisies. A thick rope twines performers together as if a heroic Bernini statue has come to life. Branches with leaves rain down. Bodies roll in speckles of dirt. Performers, reaching for the heavens, are lifted high above the din.
The platform is pushed with ever greater velocity. Performers spin away from the platform’s gravitational pull. They sprint from corner to corner and frantically whirl, leap, and pummel the platform. The platform becomes unhinged and glides around the space, barely controlled until the elements reach a crescendo. Without warning, movement and sound cease creating a spellbound silence. Eventually, each performer, spent, finds their resting place. They sit on steps, lie on the stage, or lean against an audience member. We’ve journeyed together in this fragile space. The dimming lights signal that our time, symbolically and literally, has come to an end.