How do humans carry out their daily lives when their daily lives are overshadowed by a volcano that may erupt at any time? Well, simply, they just keep on living. They fall in love, they curse their broken down car, they care for their sick mother, they dink coffee, they argue with their spouse, they brush their teeth, they go to work, they fall out of love. Gordon Cox’s PHENOMENON, presented by the Nerve Ensemble, is a multimedia examination of everyday life at the dawn of Mount St. Helen’s 1980 eruption.
PHENOMENON is part physical theater, part musical, part dance, and part drama. The ensemble and director, Alyse Rothman, did an admirable job weaving together these disciplines while maintaining a clear story underneath. For the most part, the actors were able to allow the characters to be truthful even while crossing into more exploratory art forms. The Cowboy (Marshall York) and his punk rock waitress counterpoint Christine (Rebecca Hart) had some delightfully sincere musical moments but when the other characters burst into song it felt forced and paled in comparison. In contrast, Rothman did an excellent job incorporating dance in a way that was not distracting but served to both heighten the volcano’s looming threat and give the actors an addition outlet for emotion.
It is important to note that PHENOMENON was also developed through HERE Arts Center’s Artist Residency Program (HARP), a unique program that supports artists by producing works and providing subsidized rehearsal space, marketing, technical, and administrative support. HARP’s goal is to nurture the artist and their audiences through a cross-disciplinary exchange. PHENOMENON was a perfect example of a successful blend of disciplines alongside simple storytelling and for that I commend both the Nerve Ensemble and HERE’s HARP program.
PHENOMENON is playing at the HERE Arts Center from March 4 - 25, Thursday - Monday at 8:30 PM. HERE Arts Center is at 145 Stxth Avenue, one block below Spring St.
Tickets are $18 and can be purchased through SmartTix at (212) 868-4444 and online at www.here.org or at the HERE Box Office (from 4 PM to showtime).
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.