Before I get into the goo, let me just say: I’m usually a fan of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s performance series as curated by Peter Taub. It’s challenging stuff, often culled from performance groups abroad. Whether it’s music, theatre, or dance—the one commonality is that there is generally a strong visual art element. Sometimes I think you could snap a picture mid-scene and create an image worth hanging in the art galleries upstairs.
So over the weekend, I got really excited to be part of the sold-out crowd seeing Hey Girl, the wild U.S. premiere from the Italian company Societas Raffaello Sanzio. I knew it was conceived and directed by a design-driven young Italian named Romeo Castelluci, and I expected it to be a hybrid sort of thing: part performance art, part theatre, part dance. With me was a friend visiting from Michigan. I warned her that it might be, well, strange. We figured it would either knock our socks off—or make for really good storytelling material at the bar later.
Which was it? Well, consider the beginning: a big pile of pulsating pink goo, a naked lady crawling out of it, and a flickering fluorescent light. (If you’d like to see the freaky opener, go here and click on the video tab). And consider the message: a young woman who is born into a world where she is alternately inundated with messages about feminism and servitude. Yep, it fell into the camp of storytelling at the bar later. I couldn’t recommend it to you. It doesn’t matter, because it’s not here anymore anyway.But I did see plenty of folks from Chicago’s theatre community there, which is a good thing. There were a few notable visual art elements in this show—four panels of glass that shattered on cue, freaky Kurt Cobain-looking masks, a piping hot sword that burned stuff—that I hope someone will adapt for use here. (Goodness knows I’ve seen enough drab stage design.) The take-home message: Art doesn’t always have to make sense to inspire. Oh, and a freaky video can generate a sell-out crowd.