Violence and Its Aftermath Explored in “Interference”

Icarus

Presented by Liars and Believers
Directed by Steven Bogart
Created by Many Collaborators

February 12, 2014
Club Oberon
Cambridge, MA
Liars and Believers on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

Does Interference work as a play?  No, but I’m not sure if it’s meant to cohere as the kind of story with a single start and finish.  Liars and Believers have created an immersive experience with mixed results, one that works well enough when staged at a fantastic venue like the Oberon.  Similarly to Lunar Labyrinth, though, the last effort I saw by Liars and Believers, Interference is a series of vignettes inspired by a single work.  Here, the theater group takes its cues from Pablo Picasso’s 1937 painting, “Guernica.”

“Guernica” is an anti-war mural that depicts the firebombing of a town during the Spanish Civil War.  The canvas suffocates its subjects in darkness: a wild horse, an angered bull, a woman crying over her child, a figure escaping a burning building, all caught in the black, fiery night.  It’s a raw reaction to pain and an indictment of violence.

Interference styles itself along the same lines.  Mixed media, ie, video and animation by Ruth Lingford, Sophia Cacciola & Michael J. Epstein, and Nuda Veritas, not to mention some excellent music, are utilized to pull the audience into the multiple stories.  One such thread has a contemporary woman trying to sort her belongings from her garbage.  She rhapsodizes on the concept of good versus evil, a strong monologue that would have benefited from a few more cuts.

In another short, a figure known only as the Sexy Strangler gains media fame and a cult following when he goes on a killing spree.  This segment is comically bleak but becomes labored when his victims are depicted as anonymous people obscured by paper bags over their heads.  The core of a lot of good ideas are here, but they’re not quite as effective when Liars and Believers underlines its concepts repeatedly.

The strongest thread is a three-part peek into the life of Futile the Clown.  In a show partially about Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica,” he’s the only Spaniard to make an appearance, a man from 1937 who desires to be a bullfighter. Here, the show stops taking itself quite so seriously, opting instead to focus in on a single man struggling with his far-fetched goal in the aftermath of the Guernica tragedy.  It’s funny but has just the right amount of sadness.

Interference itself is less concerned with the historical roots of Picasso’s painting than current acts of violence.  The shows begins to cohere more as it explores terrorism, the act, the aftermath, and how it “interferes” with daily life and personal well-being.

Then it morphs into a project meant to process last year’s Boston Marathon bombings.  The effort feels sincere, an actual tribute to those affected by the attacks.  It also feels forced.  Near the end of the play, I admit to feeling a bit trapped in the theater.  I like the idea of a public space to air this grief, but the event still feels too close to extrapolate art with real introspection in it.  Like “Guernica,” Interference is made up of a raw, gut reaction, but a real pattern doesn’t emerge.

But I appreciate what Liars and Believers is trying to do here.  Sometimes, “traditional” narratives don’t really give viewers and actors enough breathing room for honest catharsis.  Public tragedies don’t have concrete beginnings and endings but awkward starts and stops.  I like that Liars and Believers can play with different kinds of stories.

Interference comes together in interesting ways but, in building a show out of so many moving parts, it feels unruly and strained.  Brave, certainly, and often beautifully done when it comes to the lighting by Stephanie Howell and music. Ultimately, though, Liars and Believers gives us an ambitious show in need of rewrites.

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