Theater Review: THEATER IN QUARANTINE (The 7th Voyage of Egon Tichy and more)

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by Tony Frankel on July 30, 2020

in Theater-New York,Virtual


Whereas many theater companies are becoming experimenters with video during the COVID-19 shutdown, Theater in Quarantine has been actually transforming theater into a small space successfully.

Now, Theater in Quarantine debuts its most technically ambitious production, The 7th Voyage of Egon Tichytonight live at 7pm and 9pm EDT. This slapstick science-fiction adventure adapted from Stanisław Lem’s Star Diaries created with director Jon Levin and writer Josh Luxenberg (Sinking Ship’s Drama Desk Nominated A Hunger Artist). When space traveler Egon Tichy’s ship gets hit by a chunk of interstellar detritus, sending him careening into a minefield of time vortexes, a series of increasingly absurd events make his chances of fixing things ever less likely, and even the simplest task becomes infinitely complicated. The 7th Voyage of Egon Tichy sound by Florian Staab, scenic design by Peiyi Wong, and video design by Jesse Garrison.

And definitely check out other work from writer/director/performer Joshua William Gelb, whose new series of live-streamed performances are dedicated to the exploration of the theatrical experience inside the digital space. Running until September 12, these amazing and awesomely funny new works premiere every other week on Gelb’s YouTube channel followed by a live chat with Gelb about the challenges of making work in isolation.

Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic closed all theaters in mid-March, Gelb transformed a 2′ x 4′ x 8’ closet inside his East Village apartment into a white-box theater. As far back as March, Gelb and his collaborators started releasing pre-recorded studies in movement, clown, camera orientation, and perspective — building towards more complex theatrical experiences. On April 23, they premiered Theater in Quarantine’s first live-stream performance: an adaptation of Kafka’s The Neighbor which has been followed by an unauthorized edit of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape and collaborations with artists like Scott R. Sheppard (Underground Railroad Game), Nehemiah Luckett (Jazz Singer), and Ellen Winter (36 Questions).

“I often think about Peter Brook’s invocation of the empty space when standing in front of my closet,” says Gleb. “How can this utilitarian container, so uncomfortably small, so disproportionate in its aspect ratio, become a stage for the imagination? And it’s here I find the central metaphor, and perhaps appeal, of the entire project — it’s about as obvious as you might expect — that my attempts not only to make art in this confinement but to exist whatsoever, are not so dissimilar from what many of us are experiencing. There is frustration, and boredom, and lots of loneliness. But there is also great potential and for once an expanse of time that we have the chance to fill not with mere anxiety but with the thoughtful, rigorous creative impulse.”


Then on August 27, 2020, time stops for a Jewish playwright sentenced to death during the Nazi occupation of Prague in Footnote for the End of Time, a new retelling of Jorge Luis Borges’ classic short story The Secret MiracleCreated in collaboration with composer Alex Weston (The Farewell), this new translation sets Borges’s words to verse with an accompaniment inspired by Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, itself composed in a Nazi POW camp.

On August 13 and September 12, Theater in Quarantine continues Closet Works, a collection of short dance-based works featuring choreography by Katie Rose McLaughlin (Hadestown) along with special guests Sanaz Ghajar, Veronica Jiao, and Raja Feather Kelly (A Strange Loop).

As New York City begins to reopen amid vital protests and the threat of a second wave looms, Theater in Quarantine remains dedicated to producing new live experiences while brick and mortar theaters remain closed.

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