“The Orpheus Variations” at HERE (Closed June 30, 2013)

June 29, 2013 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
Conceived and Directed by Adam J. Thompson
Developed by the Deconstructive Theatre Project Company
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“By means of this double, and precisely stratified, dislodged and dislodging, writing, also mark the interval between inversion, which brings low what was high, and the irruptive emergence of a new “concept,” a concept that can no longer be, and never could be, included in the previous regime.”
– Jacques Derrida, “Positions” (The University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 42

No text – including the text of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Underworld – has one meaning; in fact meanings are multiple and even contradictory. Deconstructionists take apart a text and its critical tradition and display its inconsistencies. The Deconstructive Theatre Project Company counterpoints this theory of literary criticism with a brain-freezing frenzy in its reprised production of “The Orpheus Variations” running at HERE through June 30, 2013. The project received its world premiere at Brooklyn’s Magic Futurebox in October of 2012.

What is “taken apart” in this production is not only the text but the underlying (or overlying) creative process itself satisfying Jacques Derrida’s understanding that what the audience experiences is “a new ‘concept,’ a concept that can no longer be, and never could be, included in the previous regime.” In short, this Company with Adam J. Thompson, have created a myth of Orpheus which is unlike any that preceded it and provide the audience with an array of variations satisfying to every critical ear.

The audience eavesdrops on the voyeuristic Company as it deconstructs then reconstructs Orpheus’ journey into the “house” he once shared with his beloved Eurydice. His mythic journey into the underworld is here his journey into the grief-laden caverns of memory. This creative process looks very much like the sound stage of a movie studio in the pre-computerized sound effects and filming era. And the product is displayed on a large screen center stage. The audience watches the muse-abandoned Orpheus as he “scrapes away layers of the past” in an attempt to create a future without Eurydice.

At times this scraping away veers very close to madness and one thinks oddly of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The images on stage and screen parallel the images created in the collective mind of the audience as it struggles to resist the scraping away the layers of its past. The spirit of Virginia Woolf consumes the theatre as the Company creates a room of Orpheus’ own illuminated by his stream of consciousness recollection of his past.

Resist as it might, the audience falls prey to the temporary dissolution of its ego strength and swims freely in the surreal seams of the Id where it finds unexpected surcease and comfort. Orpheus and the audience experience catharsis, redemption, and release and emerge ready to re-enter life’s stage.

With only two performances remaining, the reader is encouraged to use the production information below to reserve a place for a “bumpy ride” into salvific serenity.