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A CurtainUp Review
Zomboid! (Film/Performance Project #1)

Woman on Screen: Suppose I were to postulate, time passing means things are always under control.

Girl in Beret: Fly away giant, mystic donkey people.

Voice: Please let me in.

Other Woman on Screen: If you were to postulate time passing means things are always under control. I would have to deal with that.

Voice: Remember, Mistakes...Mistakes have been made. Don't look. No mistake.
(Photo: Paula Court)
With Zomboid!, Richard Foreman has announced his intention to re-start his artistic life. Henceforth, his work will consist of filmed tableaux in front of which he will position live performers. What intrigues Foreman most, however, seems to be neither what appears onscreen nor what appears onstage, but rather that which exists between the two, in what he chooses to call a "staging arena". Stay with me a minute -- it's not quite as abstract a construct as the description would suggest.

As we enter the Ontological Theater, we are met by familiar surroundings -- a stage dressed in the signature Foreman style. The only difference is that two large screen-walls have been installed, onto which identical static images of a woman's face are projected. Just as the show is to start, a crew member walks across the stage and removes a large box -- a wrapped present -- from which some of the contents drop -- seemingly by accident -- onto the floor. The crew member picks up what fell, and scrurries offstage.

It's the last "mistake" we will witness for the next hour. Shortly, the projected image becomes a moving one, and every action onstage becomes tethered inexorably to the forward motion of the filmed images and sound. As the film proceeds, the live action -- which is infatuated with donkeys (and you don't really need a greater explanation) -- is jerked into and out of its "reality".

As Foreman steps -- tiptoes would be an understatement -- into this "new" medium, it would seem he does so not in a cautious but rather a cautionary way. What is this power that the recorded message has on us? How do we overcome it? As various voices intone (and, as is Foreman's wont, repeat and repeat) miscellaneous postulations (the first asks "What if I were to postulate...Those things never under control are under control backwards...How would you deal with that?"), the live actors seem to take a cue from the screen actors, blindfolding and un-blindfolding each other. What Foreman wants to suggest, as his program notes detail, is that humans construct their own consciousness by editing what we let in. It's the tension between this instinct and the insistence of recorded information that is under examination. Or so it would seem.

There is no radical change in the essence of Foreman's work here -- just the addition of a new, higher-tech tool in its delivery. His cast is pretty anonymous -- both in terms of our familiarity with its members and the nature of its characters. His set and props, as well as Oana Botez-ban's consistent contumes, convey a somewhat ominous but ultimately harmless iconic landscape. And then there are those donkeys, which oftentimes seem the most expressive creatures around.

As is often the case with Foreman, and perhaps even more so this time, one leaves the theater wondering what has been witnessed, and only later (if lucky) starting to understand. Zomboid! remains engaging throughout, notwithstanding its lack of narrative, character development or even subject matter. Surely those donkeys are not metaphors; I suspect Mr. Foreman considers metaphors particularly opaque.

Zomboid! (Film/Performance Project #1)
Written, directed and designed by Richard Foreman
with Katie Brook, Temple Crocker, Ben Horner, Caitlin McDonough-Thayer and Stephanie Silver onstage and Gorkem Acarcoglu, Margaret Cameron, Tayla Chalef, Martyn Coutts, Tara Daniel, Sue Ingleton, Kibby McKinnon, Joe Mitchell, Merfyn Owen, Rochelle Owens, Tom Pappathanassiou, Kelly Somes, Sam Strong, Wiloh Weiland and Lucy Wilson onscreen.
Costumes: Oana Botez-Ban
Running time: 1 hour, 5 minutes with no intermissions
The Ontological Theater at St. Mark’s Church, 131 East 10th Street (@2 Av)
Telephone (212) 352-3101
First performance January 12, 2006, closes April 9, 2006 TUES, THURS - SUN @8; $23 ($17 students) except all tickets $28 on SAT
Reviewed by Les Gutman based on 1/13/06 performance
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