Review: “Wood Calls out to Wood”
- OnStage Associate New York Theatre Critic
Wood Calls Out to Wood, by Corinne Donly, acknowledges Bosch's “Garden of Earthly Delights” not only as an image but also as an object. It starts in the theater lobby, where Prima Materia (Lucy Kaminsky) shares with us her journey as a tree, which became the wooden panes of "The Garden of Earthly Delights". She leads the crowd through the backstage corridor decorated with tangled plastic sheets reminiscent of brushstrokes. After traveling through the “birth canal” of creation, we appear on stage, inside the painting. Soon we are offered to take a more familiar point of view from the audience seats. Towards the end as the “panels” close, we all immerse in the dark and are left alone with bodiless voices and swirling words, witnessing the Earth during creation (fourth image on the outer wings of the Bosch's triptych).
This interpretation of the 15th-century triptych is playful, endearing and deeply philosophical at the same time. Donly’s poetic language becomes the brushstrokes that create the phantasmagoric landscape and its inhabitants. Each syllable sounds anew coming from the mouths of the two central characters, Grapehead (Connor James Sheridan) and A Lover (Tanyamaria McFarlane). Instead of kissing, they say “kiss”, nearing each other but never touching. This innocently looking love scene generates a powerful erotic charge. Both Sheridan and McFarlane seem to be at home in a world, where the words are not merely means of communication, but powerful tools that help sculpt themselves and their surroundings. It is a world where words are tactile. Paradise lost.
Words also contribute to the soundscape (designed by John Gasper), padded with pleasant ambient music and birds chirping. The gibberish that Horse (Will Dagger) and Other Horse (Lanxing Fu) use to talk to each other infects with excitement. I felt the tragedy very deeply after darkness devoured the stage and the audience for several minutes, and the Horses lost the ease of their purely emotional exchange and started talking in full sentences.
“In the beginning was the word”, states one of the keystone texts of the logocentric Western civilization. This opening line from the Gospel of John keeps rolling around in my head as A Lover “reads” what she sees, Bosch’s painting, to Grapehead. The curiosity and joy, followed by confusion about what those images really mean, is close to my perception of "The Garden of Earthly Delights". Wood Calls Out to Wood is a beautiful word-scape, both descriptive and atmospheric.
The sets and costume designer Ásta Bennie Hostetter did her best to accommodate this elaborately structured play and pay homage to Hieronymus Bosch on what appears to be a shoestring budget. Two shiny blue fringe curtains are used for waterfalls and a giant green bean bag for the lawn both provide just enough color and texture to hint of Bosch. The fabric stretched across the chairs looked quite spectacular as the audience came in. The headpieces worn by Grapehead and A Lover were a miss and unfortunately before us almost constantly. But I can live with a dangling red pumpkin and a bright-blue chef hat/shower cap, as long as they are on good actors. Thankfully, they are.
Wood Calls Out to Wood plays at The Tank, 312 West 36th Street, through November 12, 2017. The running time is 50 minutes, no intermission. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8; and Sundays at 7. Tickets are $15 – $25 and are available at thetanknyc.org.)
Wood Calls Out to Wood is by Corinne Donly. Directed by Sarah Hughes. Set and Costume Design is by Ásta Bennie Hostetter. Associate Set and Costume Designer is Annie Hoeg. Sound Designer is John Gasper. Lighting Designer is Alejandro Fajardo. Producer is Bailey Williams.
The cast is Will Dagger, Claire Fort, Lanxing Fu, Lucy Kaminsky, Tanyamaria McFarlane, and Connor James Sheridan.