It all started on a Monday, when a space traveler by the name of Egon Tichy is thrown off course by a freak accident and sent spiraling around in a frantic time warped frenzy. Who knew on that particular Monday that his mere existence in space was going to be the beginning of something so deviously different and wildly unique. The weird and wild tale is a decent into a delightfully ridiculous paradox steeped in a heady delerium of hilarious deliciousness. A thirty-five-minute Kafkaesque trip crammed expertly inside a multi-functional white-walled closet brought to you by Theater in Quarantine and Sinking Ship Productions. Created with a slanted wit and dementia by director Jon Levin and writer Josh Luxenberg (Sinking Ship’s Drama Desk Nominated A Hunger Artist), the diabolical slapstick science-fiction space adventure spins out wickedly and wisely into the unknown universe with elevated aplomb. It’s a ‘Who’s on First’ twisted tale that slides neatly inside our collective minds, crawling through mind worms, giving us a good laugh within its absurdist metaphysics, now available for streaming on their YouTube channel.
Based on “The Star Diaries” by Stanislaw Lem, as performed by the elastic and energetic Joshua William Gelb, The 7th Voyage of Egon Tichy unpacks layers upon layers of multi-dimensional H.A.L.-like deconstructed silliness, all played out magically inside Gelb’s personally transformed 2′ x 4′ x 8’ closet inside his East Village apartment. The inventive white-box theater is home to this one-person space ship show that careens off into a minefield of intergalactic time vortexes when the craft gets hit by a small “lima bean” sized chunk of interstellar debris. All by himself, with “all those horrible people” around him, he must find a way to save himself from what’s going on inside and out of his damaged proverbial closet ship. The production is their most technically ambitious project to date, they say, and with Music & Sound by Florian Staab, Scenic Design by Peiyi Wong, and Video Design by Jesse Garrison, the singular space adventurer flies solidly out and crawls himself in deliciously for us all to delight in. Egon Tichy has to find a way through his wisecracking aloneness and lack of chocolate, knowing full well that this is a two-man repair job, and they all are the only people on this one-man ship in that small white closet. It’s fantastically funny, absurb, and intelligently written and produced, finding a way to make sense of the days of the week in a universe where he’s “going to regret that tomorrow” but delight us tonight. So log in, and join the fun any old day of the week.
From the press package regarding this and their other fun productions available on their YouTube channel, Theater in Quarantine states quite bracenly that they remain fully dedicated to producing new live experiences while the live theaters remain closed in New York City. Gelb states, “When everything shut down, I set out to adapt to the digital form without sacrificing the integrity of the live event. How can we artfully push against the boundaries of this new social distance to theatrically embrace the limitations of remoteness? What we might consider our shared theatrical values? And how might we continue to collaborate responsibly even while we social distance?” And thank God for that.
Gelb and his collaborators started releasing pre-recorded studies in movement, clown, camera orientation, and perspective, finding ways of building upwards towards more complex theatrical experiences. On April 23, they premiered Theater in Quarantine’s first live-stream performance: an adaptation of Kafka’s The Neighborwhich has been followed by an unauthorized edit of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape and collaborations with artists like Scott R. Sheppard (Underground Railroad Game), Nehemiah Luckett (Jazz Singer), and Ellen Winter (36 Questions).
“I often think about Peter Brook’s invocation of the empty space when standing in front of my closet,” says Gleb. “How can this utilitarian container, so uncomfortably small, so disproportionate in its aspect ratio, become a stage for the imagination? And it’s here I find the central metaphor, and perhaps appeal, of the entire project — it’s about as obvious as you might expect — that my attempts not only to make art in this confinement but to exist whatsoever, are not so dissimilar from what many of us are experiencing. There is frustration, and boredom, and lots of loneliness. But there is also great potential and for once an expanse of time that we have the chance to fill not with mere anxiety but with the thoughtful, rigorous creative impulse.” It’s a noble and vital response to a closed down dangerous world and the aloneness of quarantine, one that he not only finds humor in his craft but unleashes so much more inventiveness than one can ever imagine, all buried deep inside his tight white closet in the East Village. If only my closet had such treasures….
TIP JAR: Theater in Quarantine is free to view online, but donations are graciously accepted at this Fractured Atlas Page. https://fundraising.fracturedatlas.or… Theater in Quarantine is a digital performance venue created inside my converted closet, dimensions 4X8X2. Subscribe for more! #TheaterinQuarantine
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