Theater is Easy (NYC)

BOTTOM LINE: There isn’t a word of dialogue in this piece, but the actors have a lot to say.

One day, on the pavement, I saw a big gathering; I managed to peer over the shoulders of the curious onlookers, and this is what I saw: a man lying stretched out on his back, his eyes open and staring at the sky, another man, standing in front of him, and communicating with him just by gestures, the man on the ground replying to him just with his eyes, both of them seemingly animated by a tremendous benevolence. The gestures of the man standing were saying to the intelligence of the man lying down: 'Come on, a bit further, happiness is just there, two steps away, come along to the corner of the street.  We haven't completely lost sight of the shores of woe, we're still not out on the high seas of reverie; come on now, get your strength up, friend, tell your legs to obey your mind.
                                                                                                          – On Wine and Hashish, Baudelaire

Ever since I read the above quote, I’ve been chasing it, hoping to witness something like it for myself in the belief that it could be a rapturous experience. The Krumple Theatre Company’s production of Go To Sleep, Goddamnit! is the closest I’ve been able to come. Baudelaire’s quote  reminds me of this piece in two ways. First, it re-iterates that the most powerful messages can be conveyed non-verbally. And second, the two are able to portray both the agony and ecstasy of humanity as simply, vulnerably, and beautifully as I’ve ever seen.

The characters played by Krumple Theatre Company members Jo Even Bjørke, Jon Levin, Oda Kirkebø Nyfløtt, and Vincent Vernerie are nameless and mute, but the cast uses masks, Lecoq technique (physical theatre created by Jacques Lecoq), puppets, and enhanced costumes to bring us rich, well-rounded characters and a fully fleshed-out story that, like Don Draper (wink), ponders the question “What does one do when one’s purpose has become obsolete?”

Since there aren’t any character names provided, I will call them “Priest”, “Mousy Nun,” “Sidekick Nun," “Mother Superior” (or more accurately "H.B.I.C."), “Organ Player,” and “Caretaker.” The play starts in a church with sad wooden walls, where the even sadder Priest, Mousy Nun, and Organ Player prepare for a service that no one attends. In fact, it becomes evident that no one ever attends. As the day progresses, we learn a bit more about the day in the life of these characters: who they are and what their inner desires, hopes, and fears are. Priest seems to be a confused, lost little boy; Mousy Nun has the mind of a scientist; Sidekick Nun is a budding Martina Navratilova (in more ways than one); Mother Superior not only passes down judgement, but seeks approval as well; and Caretaker (the handyman/groundskeeper) has a heart of gold and really does look out for everyone.

I know it’s terribly cliché to say that you’ll laugh and you’ll cry, but you most likely will. If you don’t, marvel at the artistry of the masks and the athleticism of the players.

by Alaina Feehan