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A CurtainUp Review
The Success of Failure (Or, The Failure of Success)

It's amazing, how even on the darkest nights
still the sun lights upon the moon, shining bright
—Cynthia Hopkins
Cynthia Hopkins' final chapter of her Accidental Trilogy, begins as a science fiction fantasy, takes a precipitous turn in the middle of the evening and ends as a personal confession that unites life experience with the creative impulse. The fact that Hopkins' work quite impressively results in success, not failure, is a tribute to her talent and energy.

Following a world premiere at The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, The Success of Failure is presented at St. Ann's Warehouse in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, a venue that has nurtured Hopkins' unique way of merging video, narrative, inventive orchestration and songs that combine folk, rock, country and cabaret. The show once again features the collaboration of Hopkins with her Accinosco collective fellow performing artists, director DJ Mendel, and set, video and production designers Jim Findlay and Jeff Sugg. The last two also perform in minor yet essential roles that aid in creating the zany yet deeply moving atmosphere of Hopkins' work.

The Success of Failure is primarily a solo show. In the first half, Hopkins is Ruom Yes Noremac (the name is an inversion of Cameron Seyruour, the protagonist of her previous pieces), a drunken ace space pilot on a mission to save the earth from the invading ILUC. If she is successful, the Druoc race, which has inherited the earth after humans annihilated themselves in nuclear war, will have time to reignite the dying sun and prevent the earth from becoming enveloped in a black hole at the center of the universe.

The entire saga is told as a story by a Creature trying to explain to her Offspring what happened "a long long time ago in a galaxy far away." Act I ends when the Creature finishes the story and the Offspring explains the lessons learned.

In Act II, Hopkins introduces herself: "The truth is, I'm 36 years old, and for the past 7 years I've been creating performance works in which I portray a fictional character named Cameron Seymour." In a fascinating monologue, punctuated by song, she explains how Cameron Seymour evolved from her own life experience: the death of her mother, the near-death experiences of her father, her own guilt and the resulting amnesia, alcoholism and essentially self-destructive behavior, and her eventual enlightenment and redemption.

Hopkins' blend of fiction and reality is so clever and seamless it's impossible (and unnecessary) to unravel the various strands in her narrative. It's much more fruitful and enjoyable to enjoy her artistry and relate to the deeply felt and magnificently expressed emotions that inform the work.

Hopkins' clear, plaintive and emotionally charged voice can be heard throughout. Unlike her previous pieces, this third part of her trilogy features Hopkins without her band, Gloria Deluxe, although there are occasional backup vocals by Findlay and Sugg. The multi-talented Hopkins also plays various characters projected on film, flies through the air like a modern day Peter Pan and performs a ritualized dance in the first act. In the second act she accompanies herself on guitar, keyboard and accordion.

As Hopkins lays bare her soul, The Success of Failure (Or, The Failure of Success) explores all those life-threatening issues people bury in the dark recesses of their minds — death, guilt, responsibility, the failures of humans and humanity. It also examines how human suffering can lead to redemption— and by the way — great art.

The Success of Failure (Or, The Failure of Success)
Written and performed by Cynthia Hopkins
Directed by DJ Mendel
With Jim Findlay and Jeff Sugg
Set, Video and Production Design: Jim Findlay and Jeff Sugg
Sound Design: Jamie McElhinney
Lighting Design: Tyler Micoleau
Choreography: David Neumann and Annie B. Parson
Costume Design: Tara Webb
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, no intermission
St. Ann's Warehouse, 38 Water Street, (718) 254-8779,
From 5/22/09; opening 5/26/09, closing 6/7/09
Tuesday through Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 4pm
Tickets start at $22.50
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons May 26, 2009
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