Off-Off-Broadway Theater Review: BODY: ANATOMIES OF BEING (Blessed Unrest at The New Ohio Theatre)

by Dmitry Zvonkov on May 10, 2016

in Theater-New York

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MINDING THE BODY

When the lights come up on Body: Anatomies of Being, the nine cast members walk out and stand at the foot of the stage facing the audience, all of them naked save one, who is dressed in a business suit. They do nothing. The house lights come up, and cast and audience look at each other for quite a while—long enough for us to satisfy our curiosity, for the titillation and novelty of the nudity to fade, and for our discomfort at being caught looking to subside. It’s a startling and brilliant beginning to this collection of dramatic essays about the bodies we live in, conceived and directed by Jessica Burr, with text written by Matt Opatrny in collaboration with the Blessed Unrest ensemble.

Catherine Gowl, Nathan Richard Wagner, Sevrin Anne Mason, Natalia Ivana Escobar, Sonia Villani, Darrell Stokes, Poppy Liu

“When I look at you, all my eye sees is a series of adjacent color values,” Francis (Nathan Richard Wagner), a painter, explains to his model Martin (Darrell Stokes). It’s part of an essay on perception: What do we see when we look at a person? An object? Are we perceiving that thing or our conditional understanding of it? A black man, Antonio (Joshua Wynter), speaks about what an enormous impact cells that make up 8% of his epidermis, which is only 1/10th of a millimeter thick, have on how he behaves around people and on how they behave around him. We get an informative lecture from Helen (Natalia Ivana Escobar), an anthropologist, on how our bodies are not individual organisms but complex ecosystems.

Natalia Ivana Escobar, Darrell Stokes, Nathan Richard Wagner, Sevrin Anne Mason, Joshua Wynter, Sonia Villani

Franny (Poppy Liu) walks around listing her moment-to-moment bodily functions: “7:41 – Wake up. Fart. 7:43 – Pee. Blow nose while pooping. Burp. Yawn…” Chloe (Sevrin Anne Mason) talks about being fat. Martin tells of his sister’s mysterious death. Nadezhda (Tatyana Kot), a model born near Chernobyl, tells her lover Dr. Williams (Catherine Gowl) about her breast implants, which she got after having a double mastectomy. And Soledad (Sonia Villani) takes us through the reactions going on inside her body during a brief romantic encounter.

Nathan Richard Wagner, Darrell Stokes, Sevrin Anne Mason, Natalia Ivana Escobar, Poppy Liu, Sonia Villani, Catherine Gowl

The stories curve and wind through and around each other like the performers, under Ms. Burr’s sensual choreography. The focus here seems to be less on drama and more on flow, interconnectedness, humanity, intention. And so while I take exception to a couple of the show’s assertions, and while I would have preferred for the scientific information to be explored in a more dramatic fashion, I was captivated by Body from beginning to end, and left the theater feeling a warm, nourishing glow.

Poppy Liu, Joshua Wynter, Tatyana Kot, Natalia Ivana Escobar, Nathan Richard Wagner, Catherine Gowl

photos by Alan Roche
poster photo by Jong Clemente

Body: Anatomies of Being
Blessed Unrest with New Ohio Theatre and IRT Theater
New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher St.
Thurs – Sat at 8; Sun at 5; Mon at 7
ends on May 21, 2016
for tickets, call 212.352.3101 or visit New Ohio
for more info, visit Blessed Unrest

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