“The Art of Seeing,” by Michael Milton
The creators have rendered a thoroughly enjoyable evening that is a kind of 21st century CABARET, featuring its own very devilish MC.
WAKE UP!… And then go see “SLUMBER” (Circus, Dance, Bloody Murder)!
“Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome…” are the oft-sung opening lyrics of the Kander and Ebb musical CABARET (based on Christopher Isherwood’s BERLIN STORIES), a show which takes place in the slightly sleazy but very colorful Kit Kat Klub in 1930’s Berlin.
In Bushwick, Brooklyn, I’m reminded not only of stage images of the Kit Kat Klub but also of my much later travels to Germany’s historic city back in the late 70s, searching out roughhewn Berlin clubs in the age of techno pop to hear the likes of Thomas Dolby performing “She Blinded Me With Science.”
And if you didn’t catch seeing Berlin yourself before the wall came down, your journey to eastern Brooklyn might at least remind you (if you are of a certain age) of the East Village and Alphabet City in our own NYC in the early 80s. That was the last of the heyday of La Mama and all other sorts of experimental theatres and dance companies performing in condemned (or soon-to-be) buildings, in areas now home to hip high rise condos.
Bushwick is reminiscent of both of the aforementioned corners of Manhattan, thirty years ago. How long it will remain one of the last havens allowing artists to pursue their craft without paying an arm and a leg–while living near the center of the universe that is purportedly New York City–only time will tell. Progress is what it is. But while it still has its edge, do yourself a favor, and venture into the ‘hood while Bushwick remains… well, Bushwick… and see SLUMBER at The House of Yes.
House of Yes. Even the name is hip, right? It is advertised being “…part night club, part theatre, part brunch joint…” It is gaudy, dark, sexy and feels like a raw amalgamation of Studio 54, a Fellini set with a Jackson Pollock thrown in for good measure.
…Gorgeous bodies—male and female—doing super human gymnastics, fun dances to catchy tunes and, yes, even pole dancing.
Directed and Produced by Lyndsay Magid and Josh Aviner, SLUMBER echoes its environment perfectly. It is part circus, part dance, part morality tale, part stand up comedy– all doused in copious amounts of blood and everything is VERY up close and personal in the small theatre space. There are gorgeous bodies—male and female—doing super human gymnastics, fun dances to catchy tunes and, yes, even pole dancing. And if reading all of THAT doesn’t get you to the theatre, I don’t know what will.
The creators have rendered a thoroughly enjoyable evening that is a kind of 21st century CABARET, featuring its own very devilish MC, in the person of the highly amusing and very unstable Lee Hubilla. Truly, there is no place to hide here. Actors chase one another with baseballs bats down the aisles and into the johns; aerialists swing from ropes directly above our heads while a few feet behind, a gentleman wrangles ropes, ties off knots and clasps hooks to keep his actors aloft.
At one point, one of Ms. Hubilla’s revenge corpses came flying directly at me; I was startled in the way we all are when an earthbound pigeon suddenly comes to life and seems to have picked our right eye ball as the perfect place to land, veering off at the last moment.
When Hubilla calls for opinions from the audience, we are not quite sure what the safe answer is, especially considering that our interrogator is holding a bloody knife. When she asks, “Who here thinks I should get away with this?” referring to the several grisly deaths she is already responsible for, I had to think twice and knew I was, perhaps, taking my life in my own hands when I—and a very small minority of the audience—timidly voted that she should not–whatever her mad explanation might be– go unpunished. She eyed us narrowly and who knows what she would have done had the next dance number not begun???
Isherwood begins his Berlin Stories with “…I am a camera, with its shutter open, quite passive, not thinking.” This would NOT hold true the ingestion of SLUMBER. It demands our attention at every turn.
Frankly, I have grown weary of the continual stream of barely reimagined Cirque de Soleil newbies, each flashier and shinier than the last, all missing the dark, suggestive qualities of the first of their genre. SLUMBER reminds me of everything I loved about Cirque at the start.
The entire cast is terrifically talented; there is the handsome and impossibly muscled daredevil Joren Dawson; I still have no idea how he did WHAT he did on that pole stage center! The blonde and beautiful Olga Karmansky is terrifyingly limber; if you watched the first season of American Horror Story and was as disturbed as I was by the credits’ image of something vaguely human walking, crablike, down a flight of stairs, you have an idea of what Ms. Karmansky is capable of. The rest of the cast contributes with endless energy in bouts of circus play and eye catching choreography all directed by Josh Aviner.
Do yourself a favor, put on your favorite leather jacket and that pair of motor cycle boots that hurt your feet and get down to House of Yes to see SLUMBER.
BTW, my date and I ate just down the block at a place called Sea Wolf. It has the kind of hipness that heralds the big changes Bushwick will experience, no doubt, over the next decade. Sea Wolf has a short and easy to understand menu—my favorite kind—with intriguing choices and a raw bar that reminded me that NYC and its boroughs are actually near the ocean.
Runs thru November 6, at House of Yes, 2 Wyckoff Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn.
(with LEE HUBILLA, OLGA KARMANSKY, JOREN DAWSON, LISA SAINVIL, BOKYUNG PARK, MELISSA AGUERRE, ANYA SAPOZHNIKOVA; directed by Josh Aviner, choreographed by KEONE AND MARI MADRID. Check SLUMBERSHOW.COM for details)