SuttonBeresCuller's Discerning Democracy Sep 17, 2011
To Be Determined by SuttonBeresCuller at On the Boards certainly delivers an unconventional performance experience. From the moment you're waiting in line, one is pushed into a zone of discomfort not so much from the number of performances that are sprinkled throughout the evening but more in that nervous laughter area where you're not quite sure what to make of what you're witnessing. Immersive, quirky and unabashedly shameless, To Be Determined is like watching America's Got Talent gone awry but with a much better set.
Sourcing performers from CraigsList, SuttonBeresCuller present a vision of a discerning democracy where curatorial purview is left to chance, the participants' ambition and the consumer's consumption. Mind you the social aspect of the experience is half of the fun. Meandering through the spaces, running into people you may know, sharing thoughts about the night contribute to a social interaction that is foreign to most performance art and in sometimes the guests themselves. At one point in the evening in Stumpy's, a goth club downstairs, an acquaintance was there supporting his DJ friend. Unaware of the "play" that was unfolding throughout the building, I encouraged him to step outside the club and experience what was happening right in front of him. This obliviousness contributes to the charm of the spectacle.
From a visual art perspective, the set elements or objects themselves are substantive and impressive. The life-size model airplane crashing into the theater seating area, the big ball of American detritus complete with a TV monitor playing "Dirty Dancing", and the backyard trailer and BBQ area provide an incredible backdrop that at times overpowers some of the individual performances. Additional installations throughout the space strengthen the "huh, what?" factor of the event.
SuttonBeresCuller disrupt the traditional performance experience and succeed on a number of levels much to our chagrin. The totality of the installation and performance intoxicates and even hypnotizes us the audience in spite of itself. To quote an 1980s Saturday Night Live skit, "It was much better than 'Cats'. I am going to see it again and again."