Deciphering The Underworld

Deliberate Motion uses video, choreography, music, text, and three performers to present what they call ‘a theatrical event.’ As you enter the space, there is video playing of an urban landscape in a thunderstorm. When a performer enters the stage, he offers the day’s lesson: ‘the earth is not a chocolate cherry.’ Shortly after, another performer sings a love song. These disparate elements, among others, held my attention at first as I hoped they would cohere to reveal a comprehensible idea. As a lover of non-linear theater, I look forward to learning how to watch a piece as it unfolds before me. Unfortunately, here, I could not decipher who the characters were (they are never identified) and I did not know where the story was taking place. In this case, these points feel like essential grounding information that would allow me to fully enjoy Better This Way. While the structure of the piece is confusing, the artists create interesting stage pictures. One of the cleverest elements is the splitting of one female character performed simultaneously by two actresses - one actress is the voice while the other is the body. Another interesting moment is when the male character creates a tape hexagon on the floor around her. Simultaneously, the third performer is building a chaotic tape sculpture on the other side of the stage, offering a visual juxtaposition that can easily be imbued with metaphors by the audience. The creative exploration that resulted in these and similar discoveries are the strongest elements of the piece.

The video that served as a backdrop for the piece is distracting. The footage consists of the female performers wandering through a wasteland. It is unclear to me how the video moves the piece forward. Similarly, the three performers of the piece did not seem strongly rooted in intention. They appeared to exist in a non-specific void, moving very slowly and carefully, without action or purpose.

The intention of the artists, as stated on their website, is to re-imagine the Persephone myth emphasizing the choices and struggles she faces while suspended between two worlds. I learned that the three actors were portraying Hades and Persephone and that the play was taking place in a liminal space between Earth and the underworld. Unfortunately, I could not make sense of the text as it was presented.

In their attempt to create an experience in which we contemplate love, identity and choice, Deliberate Motion leaves the audience without an entry point into their world, leaving us with too many basic questions.

Note: This production is a part of the 2007 NYC International Fringe Festival.

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