If you like questioning the workings of your brain, or if you're a fan of dance numbers, you will want to check out Ildiko Nemeth's new show JOLLIFICATION | MORTIFICATION at LaMaMa. Wonderfully surreal but critical of male-centered surrealism, this show is described in the program as a collage of scenes and characters from seven past New Stage productions. I saw this company's take on Fernando Arrabal last Fall, so it was quite a pleasure to see the large, provocatively-dressed ensemble perform, sometimes without words, sometimes singing in French. Note: this show, like some Salvador Dali photographs I can think of, contains nudity.
An overarching theme is the attempt to find happiness and connection. Perhaps there is more drama in the failure to connect. 100 years of poignant musical compositions and Federico Restrepo's lighting (and shadows) accompany these scenes, which draw from the work of such writers as Werner Schwab, Fernando Arrabal, Colm O'Shea, Jessica Sofia Mitrani, Ildiko Nemeth, and Mark Altman. The grotesque often shakes hands with the beautiful. One shocking scene concerned Doctor Jean-Martin Charcot, the 1800s authority on hysterics. The doctor's complete domination of his patient was clear from the way she was stripped naked, still with face distorted, manhandled, and left in that pose for the next ten minutes. It was quite difficult to watch, but did go against a trend of identifying women with evil and death. Elsewhere, a self-possessed man and a woman in aprons (his had bloodstains) fluttered about, revealling they were not wearing any underwear. There were also processions of pearl-bedecked chorus girls, sometimes dressed as fleecy sheep. Brandon Olson's costumes vary from very revealing to 1980s MTV-like assymetrical masterpieces. One black dress seemed to be lifting its wearer off the stage into the air. This is a play to watch and enjoy (from a relaxed seat at a LaMaMa cabaret table), and if it doesn't fall into place rationally, that's still very good.