The newest addition to the growing cluster of theaters in the Union Square area is the Daryl Roth Theatre. So new in fact that it gives a special meaning to the expression, "standing room only". The theater does not yet have seats, but that suits its inaugural tenant, de La Guarda's Villa Villa, just fine. This Argentine group performs above (and even in, amongst and with) its audience. It's a mind-boggling assault on the senses, sending the show into a far different, and higher, sphere than the other downtown performance-based shows (such as Stomp or Blue Man Group's Tubes) to which it might be compared. De La Guarda has something in mind that is about as wildly different as anything you likely have ever seen, heard or felt. If you are up to it, I'd rank it a "must-see".
Up to it? Here are my warnings. Wear old clothes, especially old shoes; waterproof wouldn't hurt.. If the idea of standing for a little over an hour, mostly looking up, getting wet, having people grab you and listening to frenetic music and sound effects does not appeal to you, you may be better off at The Sound of Music. Also, if you are allergic to strobe lights, be forewarned.
I think I've provided enough information either to entice you into this experience, or else to send you scurrying in the opposite direction. I'm going to resist saying anything else; not knowing is a part of what makes Villa Villa thrilling.
Here's how the creators explain it:Everything started with an uncontrollable desire to explode, to expand, to choose a space and take complete hold of it, while leaving nothing out of the game. The tide produced by the audience is a fundamental part of the emotional upheaval of this show, where everything is fragile, everything is changeable except our tempests. The victim is reality. There are no laws of nature in what's fantastic; there is neither logic nor stability.And here's what I suspect Artaud, whose work is a theatrical ancestor to Villa Villa, might have said:We are not free, and the sky can still fall on our heads; and the
theatre exists to remind us of this fact.
Created and directed by Pichon Baldinu and Diqui James
starring the members of de La Guarda
Scenic and Sound Design: de La Guarda
Costume Design: Cecelia Alassia
Lighting Design: Charles Trigueros
Composer and Music Director: Gabriel Kerpel
Daryl Roth Theatre, 20 Union Square East (entrance on 15th) (212) 279 - 6200
opened June 16
Reviewed by Les Gutman July 13, 1998