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.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Waves of Mu

It's a credit to Amy Caron's current obsession that Waves of Mu is able to tackle the heady neuroscience of mirror neurons in a playful way that won't go over anyone's head. But perhaps it should have: knowing exactly what's going on tends to make the individual demonstrations drag on.


Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

The first sign that Waves of Mu is trying just a little too hard is when, to enter the theater, you have to take off your shoes and walk through an art installation that resembles the mind. You go in one ear and it all comes out the other, but that's actually pretty neat: walking on squishy foam that bounces like brain tissue, getting bossed about by a secretary who happens to be the thalamus. No, what's working too hard in Amy Caron's world is that we're offered chocolate and champagne, neither of which represent anything, and for a play that's obsessed on how our senses (mirror neurons) translate information to produce empathy, it doesn't do to send out mixed signals.

After the exhibit, we're loaded into a theater-turned-laboratory, made to sign waivers, and prepared to participate in several psychological experiments. As it turns out, another disappointment, we're actually just meant to watch (there's perhaps too much emphasis on the video of this mulidisciplinary work). At first, we look at random dots and gradually associate them with human shapes; next, we move on to a video of a baby, and our inherent understanding of the complex facial expressions it is learning. It's obvious, but not painfully so (unless cuteness irritates you).

However, these moments are surrounded by some very loose connections to an interview with the quite charismatic V. S. Ramachandran. Sarah flips out in a demonstration of compulsive echolailic language, two assistants describe Amy's balloon blowing in a literal and then figurative fashion, our shoes are given to us as presents--but these events have little to do with empathy. Other scenes--a video of the 2008 NFC Championship, the ensuing relaxation conjured up by watching a cat, and a meditative exercise about gravity--go on long after the point is made. Caron is clearly fascinated with this world, and wholly at play, be it with small-talk and string or interpretive dance. However, audiences may find their mirror neurons out of sync with her ultimately cloying presentation.

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Waves of Mu (1hr 45min, no intermission)
PS122 (150 First Avenue)
Tickets (212-352-3101): $20
Performances (through 10/19): Tues. - Sat. @ 7:30 | Sun. @ 5:30

1 comment:

sara kuhn said...

I saw this installation/performance on Sunday night and loved it. I think Aaron who wrote the above critique was doing what he accused the artist of - trying too hard. Better to let the experience work it's magic. I thought the champagne and chocolate added to the elegance of the installation and served as a catalyst for socialization, which I came to understand after Dr. Ramachandran's video clips, is a major function of this organ riding around in our skulls. There was a lot of video in the work, but it was unexpected and was a good fit for the frame of cognitive science which relies heavily on video experiments. I whole heartedly recommend catching this piece while it's in town - it's a fun ride and you actually learn something too!