I have seen all of Ildiko Nemeth’s New York City shows. I have confidence that I understand her artistic goals and messages. For me, the experienced audience member, “Jollification | Mortification” is a summing up, a retrospective, a sampler or her skills and her theater companies many and diverse talents. That said I wonder what person seeing Ildiko’s work for the first time would think?
I’m going to put myself in that position for this review. Certainly “J | M” is entertaining. Dancing, music, characters from Weimar decadence to French pseudo-science and beyond abound in many scenes. Beautiful women, gorgeous men in drag, hilarious odd ball encounters and ensemble movement that sends shivers up your spine then back down to your crotch. It’s almost impossible to sit still. There’s a revival meeting, a tent meeting, a religious awakening on stage.
Then comes the awareness that something missing. Where is the Supreme Being in all this lustrous worship? Where are the healing miracles that theater is supposed to offer. Ildiko’s intense energy serves us cabaret preachments without medicaments or unguents. Instead we get madonnaesque beauty, supernatural hypnotic characters and drug inspired spiritual inspiration. The movement never stops, we can’t put the pieces together, we are forced to think and react to a new dream.
Then it’s over. The butt naked preacher (Chris Tanner) is going out with the company. The exquisite nude ingénue leaves wondering if this show will help her career. Ildiko is being congratulated by adoring fans and nameless actors who want to be in her next production. Now I understand what I’ve witnessed. Perpetuation of a unique theatrical vision that creates wonder for mature sophisticated audiences.
An hour after I leave the theater I realize I’ve been indulging in a kind of Mittel European Bollywood. All the elements of experimental opera without the inane plot platitudes. And I want more. A must see whether you intimately know or want to get to know Ildiko Nemeth’s New Stage Theatre Company. Downtown entertainment with huge rewards for its audience.