Have you ever woken from a particularly vivid dream wanting to tell someone about what it looked like, how all the strange pieces fit together, and how it made you feel, only to find words fall disappointingly short? YOUARENOWHERE, Andrew Schneider’s breathtaking play now running at 3LD, delivers the same kind of hazy, disjointed, surrealistic experience that the best dreams provide. This, however, is an experience you may want to have more than once.
The show begins with a jolt like a shot of energy straight to the brain. The first several minutes are absolutely enervating, engaging the senses powerfully, and not gently. In fact, the space and sound have been co-designed to get you right in the seat of the pants, and it’s a truly spine-tingling effect.
“The world presents us with phenomena, things that we observe and make note of, from which we must then work to derive concepts and understand how those phenomena relate to the rest of our experiences.” This, Schneider’s thesis statement, comes only a few minutes into the performance, and he doesn’t waste any time putting the audience to work, from the first moment composing a audiovisual riot that very successfully manages to trick the senses.
The sound and light effects—combined with Schneider’s stealthy movement and surprising presentations—quickly make it difficult to continue trusting in your own perception of time and space. There is force in the contrasts between light and dark, color and monochrome, sound and silence. In short, he subtly directs the audience to question the reality of the moment. Then things start to get a little weird.
The play feels like it is part commentary on the plugged-in world we now inhabit and part performance art, with the intensity of a confessional and more than a touch of (sometimes absurdist) humor. Schneider has used his technological know-how to create some striking and occasionally baffling effects. He also does a wonderful job of constructing a sympathetic character, and then very skillfully deconstructs everything you thought you understood.
The electronic portion of the performance is so prominent, in fact, that the quiet moments triggered for me a sense of anxiety that perhaps things weren’t going as intended. That was not the case, however, and as the production continued it became very clear just how under control every element really was. This despite the suggestion that “There are more ways to be disorderly than to be orderly.” But control, in this case, doesn’t mean it isn’t very emotionally evocative, and when the lights fell, the audience rose to their feet.
Despite the gadgetry-based sleight of hand and some mischief and mayhem, the performance remains intimate. Amidst all the strangeness that ensues, Schneider’s character also remains very oddly likable. The whole show is like that, really—odd and fascinating and funny. It’s an experience that both challenges and charms. And invites you to visit again.
Created and performed by Andrew Schneider
Produced The Tank, part of their Flint & Tinder series
3LD Art and Technology Center
Through Sunday, April 3, 2016
All photos: Maria Baranova