Familiarity Feb 20, 2015

by Joe Ngo

What could I possibly say about Richard Maxwell’s “The Evening” that Mr. Maxwell, and others on this blog, haven’t already stated in much more eloquent terms?

Not much.

There is likely an apt French expression much like “déjà vu” or “l'esprit de l'escalier” that would help to describe the mixture of emotion and questions that were evoked as I sat in on a performance of The Evening last night. I might use the word “Familiar” to describe the feeling, but the word itself lacks a sense of exploration and mystery, as I became unsure of what to think and how to think it as I watched this production unfold.

Richard Maxwell knows exactly what he is doing; If his goal was to make me question the confines of my personal reality, reasoning, and all else, he was successful. 

As a theatre maker, I’ll boldly go so far to say that I understand the use of tropes, archetypes and the homage to Pirandello’s “Six Characters…” that are employed in this piece. And yet, I wasn’t immune from being swept up by his ability to tear these concepts apart, shove them back together and make them new again.

Perhaps Maxwell is playing with that particular reflexive nerve in us: using what we know, what is “Familiar,” to challenge our beliefs (and his own) as theatre goers, and as human beings. Moving from the confines of a letter, to a small “booze place”, to a boundless white field, I go with him and his stripper/bartender through a journey that evokes this “familiarity.

From what I know of Maxwell, I can surmise that he is somewhat of a mischief maker; that demands we take a peek outside of the box, examine the magician’s hat, and will help us to do so. I am thankful to him for it.

As I exited the building, some fog/smoke from the show spilled into the lobby and set off the fire alarms and as people began to evacuate the building, and sirens came tearing down the street, I thought to myself:

Was that intentional? No way…right?