Trying to Make Sense of Sand

12/07/2011 4:00 AM |

Written, directed and designed by Peter Jacobs

"By the way, this is our play in progress," Her (Stephanie Weeks) reminds the audience a quarter of the way into Sand, Peter Jacobs' new multimedia performance piece at the Chocolate Factory (through December 10), in case you just hadn't realized. Most people might not "get it" right away, they might kind of get it, sort of get it (and to be perfectly honest, I only kind of, sort of got it), but that's okay. Jacobs' elaborately choreographed yet textually focused play of sorts is abstruse and intentionally enigmatic. Either it requires more from the audience, more attention, investment and the willingness to interpret and pull meaning from something that seems so ambiguous, or that we quietly acknowledge the Derridean notion that nothing is actually interpretable and trying to tease out meaning from this absurdity is, in a word, absurd. You could say that this is thoughtful and appreciable (though far from brilliant), and the show seems like a perfect fit for a venue known for what the Times' Roslyn Sulcas called "non-sequitur oddness," but that doesn't mean it's entirely satisfying either.

Him (Derek Spaldo) and Her are parent types locked in some irreconcilable conflict, eager but unable to separate. They occupy a whitewashed brick void, an instillation more than a set scattered with emblems of domesticity plucked out from a hallucination-inclined mind—mirror fragments, suspended tape measurers, legless tables with trap doors and dinning chairs held together by strings. Eventually we learn this place is "America 2nd," what the press release calls a "hyper poetic/delusional half planet." Their lines, with one or two exceptions, are recited without emotion; they're not really performed. The text seems to be written in verse; free verse, but verse nonetheless. It's highly alliterative and contains frequent, often very simple couplet rhymes. Much of the dialogue, like poetry recited at the front of a lecture hall, goes over the audience's head. Only a few choice lines reverberate, particularly as a result of the cheeky rhyme. Most are trite as form follows function, but some are surprisingly poignant. "Saying 'I wish to die' instead of 'goodnight,'" Her chides Him, "is like saying you wish to live and just don't know how." Likewise, the audience can wish to "get" and appreciate this play, but because of its lack of humor and humanity, we just don't know how.

(Photo: Theresa Ortolani)