Opening + Closing: #haikureview

Cute Activist and Memory Retrograde are two unique takes on relationships, oppression, and minimalist stage design

Madeline Wise is absolutely eponymous

When you’re a haikuist, it is awe-inspiring to contemplate the amount of time, patience, energy, and strength it must take to create a 75-minute long original stage performance. On Friday, I caught the preview of Cute Activist at The Bushwick Starr, and then spent two hours delving into grand themes and dialogue minutiae with my favorite couple in the world, Jaynie Saunders Tiller and her husband Chad. Surprisingly, the intricately developed and deeply self-depricating work was written PRE-November 2017, before we really started to feel society-wide guilt about our lazy and passive approach to this sick sad world.

ask yourself something
spare us all the bird’s lament
look earth in the eye

The play is so tightly would, so punchy and exciting and surprising, that I really don’t want to give too much away in this “review.” But let me tell you this: if you, like me, have felt a (many) shadow of self-doubt over that smooth white worriless brow of yours in the past, oh, thirty years or so, and want to explore that further in a way that is strangely delightful and hilarious, now is your moment. Don’t miss it.

oh, another thing:
the puppets are amazing
just see for yourself
Kristine Haruna Lee with Dawn Akemi Saito — reflecting and hypnotic

When Jaynie and Chad realized that I’m obsessively researching screenwriting to make a foray into my own longer-than-seventeen-syllables performance project, they launched into a litany of recommendations for me, at the top of which was Kristine Haruna Lee’s new play, Memory Retrograde. Before I continue I’ll apologize in advance because it closed yesterday, but let this be a lesson to us all to keep up-to-date with whatever emerges next from the harunalee ensemble. Memory Retrograde started with a similarly fast-paced and jaunty opening, but quickly unfolded into a darker and more difficult drama. In fact, the contrast left me speechless for quite some time after the piece finished, questions partially formed in the back of my throat.

this life, running late
wondering if again i’d miss
the lesson i sought

But here’s the thing about difficult dramas: if you can bear to push yourself outside of your comfort and your expectation, ensconced in the dark warmth of the audience, you might — you just might — be able to move yourself deeper and wider as well when you step back out into the bright, cold streets of your real life. And if you can do that, maybe the creators will have accomplished a piece of their goal, even beyond the amazement and they engendered on their modern and minimal stages. If I can do that, maybe this weekend will have been one of the more influential of my short life.

now the stage is soil
now the snow cannot cover
new art unfurling

Tonight, of course, the cherry on top will be my Sunday night ritual of all of the shows at Bowery Poetry. First, Why There Are Words, then PoetNY.

Much love.