Off-Off-Broadway Theater Review: JUDGMENT ON A GRAY BEACH, YOUR PROCESS HAS BEGUN (La MaMa & Dramma International Theatre Ensemble)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on March 13, 2015

in Theater-New York

JUDGMENT ON A GRAY BEACH PROCESS

Elia K. Schneider stages an engaging spectacle with her Judgment on a Gray Beach, Your Process Has Begun, a dialogue-free experimental piece that imagines the “dream that might have preceded Joseph K’s awakening at the beginning of (Franz Kafka’s) The Trial.” The show is difficult to describe: There is a dark, sinister-looking beach under the control of a bureaucratic totalitarian entity whose disembodied robotic male voice pronounces grotesque laws and gives absurd orders as an assortment of characters wander into this nightmarish place at various times.

K (Daniel Damuzi) is sentenced by the Judge (Will Rhodes). Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

There is K (Daniel Damuzi), dressed in a worn overcoat, a crumpled fedora, and carrying a sad leather briefcase; prostitutes in sexy black underwear; a Nazi officer; a man with a resemblance to Hitler; a ballerina; a mother; a maid; a gypsy woman with an accordion; a priest; death. These symbolic archetypes perform gestures—some enigmatic, others straightforward—which, along with the prerecorded music, the occasional singing, as well as all the other theatrical elements, are intended to create a poetic allegory of some of the more unpleasant aspects of society and the human condition.

Daniel Damuzi as K witnesses Prostitute (Maria Bosque) transforming into an animal eating cat food, reminiscent of Kafka's Metamorphosis. Photo by Rosalie Baijer.If I were making a movie and needed a scene showing an experimental theater performance, Judgment would be ideal. The production abounds with the tropes associated with this genre: a) A surreal landscape, which in this case is a near barren stage dusted with sand (set: Joel Daavid); b) Hard lighting and sharp shadows (Joseph Novoa); c) Rear projections (Gabrieal Griego); d) Eclectic music, ranging from American ditties to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (musical director: Daniela Mandoki); e) Performers whose movements and expressions are all highly choreographed and stylized (choreographer: Will Rhodes); f) Costumes meant to suggest a particular time and place—in this case Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe—without being literal about it (Maria Bosque); g) An evocative sound design (Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski); h) Eccentric props—gas masks, plastic babies, plastic limbs, a disturbingly realistic decapitated head of a man, an electric chair that doubles as a throne, oversized inflatable machineguns, and a side of beef (plastic) lowered from the ceiling that looks like it’s out of Bacon’s Figure with Meat (props: Zahyde Pietri).

Maria Bosque and Daniela Mandoki sing. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Ms. Schneider and her performers make fine use of these excellent elements; the production is visually dynamic and its 75 minutes pass quickly. Yet Judgment, with all its attempts at poetry, is too literal, its theatrical statements too shallow and straightforward to accommodate allegory and universality. Perhaps if there were sympathetic characters to give the production emotional weight it would lend substance to the abstractions. But as is, we don’t care about anybody, including K. Judgment attempts to explore totalitarianism in its various manifestations—government over man, man over woman, herd mentality over independent thought, ideology over spirituality—but its approach is banal and hackneyed, and feels as heavy-handed as its unfortunate subtitle.

Marilia Colturato as The Priest, with diismembered children. Photo by Rosalie Baijer.

Additional cast: Daniela Mandoki, Ale Fips, Maria Bosque, Alexis Rivero, Marilia Colturato, Ximena Munoz, Moises Amsel & Vanessa Herrera.

The audience is threatened with guns as sound track plays 'What a Wonderful World'.  Photo by Rosalie Baijer.

Alexis Rivero as Death Angel.  Photo by Jonathan Slaff.photos by Rosalie Baijer and Jonathan Slaff

Judgment on a Gray Beach
Your Process Has Begun

Teatro Dramma
La MaMa, Ellen Stewart Theatre
ends on March 15, 2015
for tickets, call (646) 430-5374
or visit www.lamama.org

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