Gutierrez and a Hundred Tiny Deaths

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End… End… End… Miguel Gutierrez sits facing Ishmael Houston-Jones, verbally cueing the length of each semaphoric movement they perform in unison. End. A projected professor-type man discourses about emptiness from three screens, constantly interrupting his own train of thought. End. The six performers waft through space, limbs directing their bodies. They constantly switch tasks like they have the four-second memory of a goldfish. End. Forced unison laughing, HAHAHA. End. and lose the name of action is wrought with interruptions. Little endings that fail to stop the flow of action, but still register as glitches in the continuity—it’s a constant redirection of attention.

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People in and lose the name of action Photo by Chris Cameron
Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People in and lose the name of action
Photo by Chris Cameron

There are moments of lucidity. Houston-Jones, voice pitched in eagerness, guides the room in a séance and the performers work themselves into a spiritual frenzy. They sing a repetitive and layered harmony, Open your eyes. Open your eyes. Follow the light. Hold my hand. Later, an existential argument becomes a similarly layered orchestration as the entire cast debates in unison while repeating their actions and patterns through space—stuck in a loop. The evening becomes progressively more stuck. Luke George attempts to correctly execute a sequence of movements with K.J. Holmes sending him back to the beginning each time. Houston-Jones knocks down chairs at the same rate Holmes stands them back up. Several times, a moment lingers in the choreography and one wonders if it’s going to end—a final release from their interminable state that seems unanchored to any linear perception of reality. But the dance fizzles on.

MGPP_ALTNOA_MANCC_by ChrisCameron_025_sm
Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People in and lose the name of action
Photo by Chris Cameron

And then finally it’s the end of the show full of endings. No one claps. No one bows. The work stumbled through a multitude of potential endings to arrive here with the lights still on and the projection still running. It seems a profound metaphor. The stage is empty and the audience leaves. The space continues in its emptiness without us. In the program notes, Gutierrez talks about life-sustaining medical procedures that fundamentally changed his father on a cognitive level. He became a recognizable body containing a stranger, past a point of no return. End is just another kind of death. Death of a moment, death of an idea, death of what was. Perhaps the death is made of many tiny deaths over a lifetime—that final end not as significant or severe a drop off as we perceive it to be. Really it’s been ending all along.

and lose the name of action by Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People ran at On the Boards March 6-9, 2014. Learn more at Ontheboards.org and miguelgutierrez.org.