“Am I alive? Are you? Things are not as they seem,” begins Patrick Olson immediately challenging his audience. “Our minds reinforce simple deceptions. We don’t see things the way we are and the universe doesn’t care…” Ninety-nine percent of the mass of the human body is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus, “nothing living. What is life, then?“
A rock song, heavy on bass, synth and reverb is performed by Olson with four very good backup singers who vogue robotically in unison. Projections are psychedelic morphing, something representative, at others impressionistic. Music and vocal arrangements are VERY like those of Talking Heads. and VERY similar to one another. The artist weaves through his singers.
“Where are we? When do we exist- now…It takes eight minutes for the sun’s light and heat to reach us, so if it disappeared, we wouldn’t know right away….If we’re being watched from somewhere in the Andromeda Strain, it would be 2 ½ million years out of sync.” “I am then and I was now,” he sings.
Olson gives us deft Cliff Notes about the organizing principle of gravity – we’re lead in a breathing exercise, a “purely poetic” interpretation of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – “matter doesn’t want to be alone,” the “overview effect” astronauts experience, that color we see isn’t generated by the object, that light and sound never directly touch our brains, origins – how does a galaxy emerge out of something the size of a marble, and even tackles, “where does love come from?” Spoken passages alternate with songs and dancers, the latter good, but overkill.
The script is smart. Olson would make a good teacher. Onslaught of visuals, light, and music, a matter of taste. Fans of David Byrne may be intrigued. It’s A LOT to take in.
Cherry Davis, Summer Sheldrick, Miya Bass, Lavy Cavaleire Bella Kosal, Dana Liebezeit and Samara Brown surround Patrick Olson
Patrick Olson was, he tells us, the founder of an educational science company. Talking to numerous scientists about their ideas for publication purposes, “I found myself increasingly filled with awe and wonder and thought how do I share that? How do I connect, become “us”? His method is multi-media immersion.
Styling by Angela Aaron is apt – black minis for singers and dancers, a cool, ombre three-piece suit for Olson.
Lighting – Wasted Potential; Jordan Noltner and LED Visual Design – Futuretalk Inc/Jonathan Corbiere & Tyler Sammy/Wasted Potential/Nick Proctor work hand in glove. The former is oddly excessive AND just enough, the latter a mixed bag, sometimes derivative, at others imaginative.
Music and vocal arrangements by Mike Avenaim create singular evocative sound, though we sometimes lose the lyrics
Patrick Olson wrote, recorded, and released the album “Music for Scientists” in 2021 as an “an artistic and emotional expression of the power surrounding profound scientific insights.”
Photos by Russ Rowland
Opening: Bella Kosal, Samara Brown, Patrik Olson Cherry Davis, and Miya Bass
EMERGENCE- Things Are Not What They Seem
Written and Performed by Patrick Olson
Music Produce r- Mike Avenaim
The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theater at The Pershing Square Signature Center
480 West 42nd Street
Through January 7, 2024