Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sci-fi Theater: Space//Space

Space//Space is the ultimate trip,
if your drug of choice is Lexapro
(photo credit: Ryan Jensen)

Banana Bag & Bodice at Collapsable Hole
written by Jason Craig
directed by Mallory Catlett
June 15, 2012

Before Space//Space begins, the plexiglass pod onstage and electronic soundscape evoke a low-budget, deep-space atmosphere. But it's the show's prologue that sets the tone. A mad scientist twitches through a logorrheic lecture describing what we'll see as a failed scientific experiment. Is this modernist drama itself a failed experiment as well? It's definitely a journey to the outer orbit of theatrical expression. Launched on a one-way mission into the void, brothers Jason Craig and Jessica Jelliffe are lab rats (they wear hamster outfits instead of jump-suits) who kill time by spinning LPs, rationing “emergency sandwiches”, and, in his case, reciting baldly sexist stand-up material. In a bit of quantum flux, Jelliffe's cosmonaut spontaneously turns into a woman. Despite odd outbursts of space madness and witty observations on boredom, after sixty minutes of ironic anti-performance Space//Space feels like the failed experiment it claimed to be.

But Craig, Jelliffe, and director/dramaturg Mallory Catlett have death on their minds as well as gender. Just as Space//Space starts to coast on its inertia, it turns into a cosmic pocket-epic with mythic resonances, a 2001 filtered through the knowing ironies of the 21C avant-garde. Mortal fears creep into Craig's voice, for even in the future the only thing more fearful than eternal boredom is oblivion. Jelliffe, however, strips to reveal a belly swollen by pregnancy that somehow doesn't clash with her bearded face. A holy androgyne, she morphs into some sort of Space Goddess, some future-myth's equivalent of an Earth Mother. Her previously hyper-casual style of performance takes on warm undertones, and she becomes a psychopomp who will guide the dying astronaut through a space odyssey of death and rebirth. In its final scenes, Space//Space goes further out than any show you'll see, skirting failure to reveal something rich and strange.


Space//Space plays at Collapsable Hole, closing on July 1. Tickets?


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