The Success of Failure (or, The Failure of Success) is an aesthetically pleasing production, and as always, Hopkins’s music is intriguing and singular. Her creations are strange beasts, integrating her off-kilter musical compositions within a movement-oriented multimedia theater extravaganza. This time around, though, the story line feels outwardly hokey and slap-dashed together: it’s one long setup for the more personal second half, at which point she takes us on a journey through her emotional, muddy past, sharing how it seeps into her creative present.
Review by Amanda Cooper
I am a Cynthia Hopkins fan. Her creations are strange beasts, integrating her off-kilter music compositions with a movement-oriented multimedia theater extravaganza. I have seen – and loved – both previous installments of her Accidental Trilogy, of which this production, The Success of Failure (or, The Failure of Success) is the third and final part. Hopkins’s latest is the weirdest, most autobiographical, and most emotional of the three. But it is also the most overindulgent and inconsistent.
Set in a science fiction future, the first half of the piece is narrated by two planets, which tell the story of the demise of the humans and human-like Druoc. The performance is handled via projections and the onstage antics of Hopkins (with the help of Jim Findlay and Jeff Sugg, along with talented director DJ Mendel). After this first part (which makes sense sometimes) wraps up, Hopkins takes us on a journey through her emotional, muddy past, sharing how it seeps into her creative present.
The Success of Failure… is aesthetically pleasing, and as always, Hopkins’s music is intriguing and singular. But whereas the lopsided plots of her past two productions also only made semi-sense, they were kept afloat by their forward momentum, originality, and deadpan humor, not to mention the successful fusion of multimedia elements with song and dialogue. This time, the story feels outwardly hokey and slap-dashed together: one long setup for Hopkins’s personal second half. As for this part, it’s purposefully painful, both for audience and performer, as Hopkins recounts to us, in beautiful prose, her dangerous, alcoholic, and even suicidal tendencies, perhaps provoked by her mother’s premature death.
In her first two shows, Accidental Nostalgia, and Must Don’t Whip ‘Um, Hopkins mixed harsh personal history with character fiction. What was autobiographical and what wasn’t, was satisfyingly unclear—we could feel for Cynthia Hopkins, and the clear pain she has felt over her life, but we could remain removed from the direct events and fallout. The Success of Failure… removes this mystery, which turns our empathy to pity, and, at times, resentment: is this a therapy session for Hopkins?
My hope for Cynthia Hopkins: Artist (if I am allowed to have one), is that she has now shed enough of her demons to move on, to show her fans what is beneath that pain, and the further insight and strange beauty she is capable of creating.
The Success of Failure (or The Failure of Success) 1 hour, forty minutes, no intermission
St Ann's Warehouse (38 Water Street, DUMBO, Brooklyn)
Tickets $22.50 and up
through June 7, 2009
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