On any Monday night at Sidewalk it's quite likely to hear performers pouring out details of the minutiae of their lives - lost loves, work frustrations, etc. But it's rare that these diary-like songs have a relevance to the majority of the audience members. It's a fine line to hoe but the trick is to be personal and general at the same time.
I'm still absorbing the first segment of Life and Times, the epic opera that I saw last night at the Public Theatre. But here is a work of theatre that deals with the excruciating minutiae of a life but somehow succeeds in creating a canvas on which audience members can project and explore the related aspects of their own lives.
Among the performers in the company of Life and Times are Dan Gower and Julie Lamendola, the core members of Ching Chong Song, which I have always thought is one of the more brilliant groups on the Sidewalk scene. The text of Life and Times is a transcription of a long recorded phone conversation in which a woman describes her life starting at birth - and well, up to the end of last night's segment we're at around the third or fourth grade (I'm seeing the rest of the show over the next two night - it can also be seen in one long marathon).
The actors sing the text of the recording with all the ums, ahhs, hahahas, etc. in place. There's something about the staging - which kind of has a Merce Cunningham-like sense of disconnection from the text - that allows the language to stand out from the action. There are many strikingly visual and highly original aspects of the staging, though, that kept surprising the audience.
I've been hearing about this production for a while and I was eager to see it. I'm so glad that Julie and Dan's strong talents are standing out in this production (which I would highly recommend if you don't get the drift). The show is demanding on its cast and their commitment is impressive. There are still a few chances through the rest of the week to see individual segments and the whole marathon, although some shows are sold out.
I wonder what the rest of Life and Times has in store for me. Looking forward to the next 5 or 6 hours at the Public Theatre.