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Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Fuerzabruta Opens!

Where: Daryl Roth Theatre, 15th at Union Square, NYC
Creator: Diqui James
Performers: Freddy Bosche, Hallie Bulleit, Daniel Case, Michael Hollick, Joshua Kobak, Gwyneth Larson, Tamara Levinson, Rose Mallare, Brooke Miyasaki, Jon Morris, Jason Novak, Marlyn Ortiz, Kepani Salgado-Ramos
Opens: October 24
Visit: Official Site, Telecharge

De La Guarda, the rappel-and-dazzle 1998 hit that put theatre innovator Diqui James on the map (and ran almost seven years), was an exercise in the joy of human connection: a cast of giddy aerialists clung together in various dreamlike scenes against the elements (rain, wind, and house music, in that order), creating indelible images of a world where shared strength was infinitely powerful.

James' latest piece, Fuerzabruta, keeps the dazzle -- actors are suspended from the ceiling again, awash in shiny fabrics, water, and plexiglass -- but ditches much of the optimism. Instead, the subject at hand is the bombastic drudgery of our daily existence. In one scene, an enormous treadmill ensures that running actors never get anywhere; in another, actors dance wildly as the ceiling literally crashes onto their heads. The very first moment, in fact, is of an actor who is shot in the stomach...only to remove his bloody shirt later on and continue as if nothing happened. It's as if James and his talented designers are recognizing the state of our desperate age: yes, these days the world sucks. It's hard, there's a war, and the planet is in trouble. But equally, Fuerzabruta suggests that we must break through the weighty negativity of modern life...with "brute force" (the translation of the title) if need be.

The first half of Fuerzabruta sets up the struggle in wordless scenes designed as much for cheap thrills as social commentary. The actors engage in a tribal dance inside a cardboard room, which they quickly decimate...and then proceed to break pieces of the walls over audience members' heads. An enormous spinning piece of what seems like aluminum fabric has a man and a woman suspended in mid-air on each side; as it spins, we see their futile struggle to connect with one another. In these and other scenes, there's a tense, nervous energy as the audience (which is standing for the duration of the 60-minute piece) is shuffled around by tech members.

But then comes the house music and the Mozart-wigged DJ, whose tribal beats create a rave-like atmosphere to loosen up the crowd. And THEN....comes the water. I won't spoil the awesome surprise of the event's climactic centerpiece, but at both performances I've attended, it had a completely adult audience giggling with childlike wonder. At its best, Fuerzabruta has the power to do this -- to restore viewers' innocence and sense of theatrical magic. While it may not do those things as well as its predecessor, it will still be astonshing to almost all who visit it.

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