theater (reviews)

review: chimera

Chimera

Created by Suli Holum & Deborah Stein
Written by Deborah Stein
Featuring Suli Holum
HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue
January 8, 2012 — January 28, 2012
production web site


Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
January 7, 2012

  • “This is a kitchen, a theatre, a kitchen.”
  • “Did you know that the first theatrical experience was a sunset?”
  • “Sometimes things are just weird and we should be o.k. with that.”

Suli Holum. Image by Trevor J. Martin.

Part absurdist observation (“is this a kitchen?” our actress initially asks when she joins us with coffee in hand and seats herself in the audience to comment on the blank slate of a white light-lit white set), part transformation, part puppetry, part science fiction, part cosmology, part horror story. Suli Holum, co-creator and performer, and co-creator and writer Deborah Stein have crafted a transformative contemplation of self-definition at the cellular level combined with social and astrological moments of wonder.

Holum portrays at least three characters, only one of which is named.  Jennifer Samuels is a woman with an 11-year-old son who learns through some DNA testing that she carries two sets of DNA (her own and the DNA of an unborn twin her own body absorbed before birth), and it is her twin’s DNA her son carries.  We first meet a narrator (is this the twin in an alternate universe or someone else?), then Jennifer and finally the be-spectacled son, all portrayed with flexibility and charm by Holum.  The narrator comments upon, interacts with, serves as surrogates for us, the audience.  Jennifer lives the experience of attempting to synthesize this DNA-level information about her own identity and her son — in essence her son is the progeny of this unborn twin, at the cellular level.  And the prepubescent and very intelligent son shares his calm reflections on the meaning of life and his understanding of his mother’s reactions.  A refreshingly look at the essential question of self-identity.

Costume design by Tara Webb suggests a dance sensibility.  Spare use of costume props (e.g. a pair of rubber gloves or that set of spectacles) and costume (e.g. a bodice or an apron) illustrate, animate, articulate the various characters at different moments.  Jeremy Wilhelm‘s set seems at first glance to be a single side of an IKEA white laminate kitchen display, until the elements are used as portals and purveyors, and the spare surfaces are used to reflect projections of molecules and night skies.  Sound by James Sugg animates the machinery on stage and life outside (crickets, night sounds).  Video design by Room 404 Media / Kate Freer and David Tennent takes us into our bodies and into the constellations.

© Martha Wade Steketee (January 12, 2012)

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