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HKPG with “Computer”
March 8-12, 2006

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Friday, March 10
Thursday, March 9
    Too many questions, and not enough time to answer them all.
    By Lynn

    Absurd. "the state or condition in which human beings exist in an irrational and meaningless universe and in which human life has no ultimate meaning." This piece was task driven (an obvious statement) but by performing these tasks with the commitment that they do they were making a comment about what every day life is, a series of tasks. When I saw the bag of M&Mís come out, all I could think about was those rock stars and their insane demands to have only "the green ones", and whose horrible job is it to sort out all the green M&Mís so someone who society deems as special can have what they want. Is the color green really all that important? Is there something special about the green ones, or is it some psychosomatic precondition we have to categorize things? Thatís the general gist of what HKPG left me with, questions. And lots of them. I will say though, that they gave me the opportunity to laugh at myself and all the inane, meaningless things that we as humans give so much weight to. Though, I wonder about the performers themselves? Who are they, where do they come from, what have they done? Or is their lack of bios a statement by the artists saying "judge my work, not what Iíve done in the past"? I wondered why I was there. I felt like a prop or set dressing to them, something that is nice to have but not exactly necessary. I wasnít sure whether they wanted me to see their work, because I (and others in the audience) had the impulse to interact with them, but it seemed to be squelched by the performers themselves. They didnít engage with the audience, they just continued on their tasks. Is that a statement about life itself and how we continue with our daily tasks and donít take the time to interact with the other beings on this planet, or am I reading too much into the piece? I was unclear about what was intentional and what wasnít. How much precision was involved? How long did they work on this? Did they have an outside eye, besides Matt peering down from atop a ladder the entire piece? And why was he there? I can only assume that he represented some sort of god or authority figure, but the thing is, they needed more specificity. When you have a piece that is so absurd and vignette-esque, you must define the parameters for your audience, otherwise we have no context in which to base our experience. And an experience is what they were after, correct? There were moments when I enjoyed myself, The Scary Song and Aaron with the wizard puppet being some of my favorites. But thatís what it was to me, a series of moments instead of a whole experience. I wasnít taken on a journey, and maybe they wasnít the intention of the piece, but thatís why we come to the theater, to be taken on some sort of journey, to be told a story. There were moments of stories, but they didnít go far enough. Tell me more about the lounge acts, why not use that as a way to connect the entire piece? There was a lack of through-line for me, no arch to the piece. I see potential with HKPG and with Computer, I just feel that the collective could benefit from having someone on the outside looking in.

    posted by liquidtwist @ 12:00 pm | Permanent link

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    Sticky Sublime
    By Tania

    I traded in the opportunity to watch the season premier of America's Next Top Model and the season finale of Project Runway to experience HKPG's Computer tonight. My television habits might give you some indication that I do enjoy watching a good trainwreck. I went into the HKPG performance not knowing what to expect exactly, but strangely giddy with the anticipation that this could go any way at all: a genius mess, a mildly engaging jumble, or just sugary chaos. Boredom was never on my list of expectations, so the slow beginning of the show was an initial disappointment. There were performers in sleeping bags, lying in the middle of a chroma-key green set, while a naked man stands on a ladder with a guitar around his shoulder reading monotonously into a mic. Once I figured out that the house lights were not coming down and there was no chance of stealthy escape, I relaxed into the experience.



    One of the best moments of endurance theater is when you realize you are in it for the duration, no matter how painful or intense it might become. This kind of resignation can bring about the most amazing flurries of thought and strange associations. As the performance crawled forward (sharing a coffee cup and telling dream stories, plugging in and lighting a mess of table lamps, running in circles) I built a narrative for myself. This was a commentary on the condition of the modern office worker, struggling to make meaning out of the forced relationships and strange rituals of the corporate world. I found myself laughing at ridiculously juvenile jokes, and nodding my head sympathetically at more poignant turns, and recognizing my own past in the birthday card silently being passed around and signed by each performer.



    Then, the meaning crystallized into something beyond my simplistic story-line. I had been so naive! It came in the form of a brilliant musical number as requested by the heap of shaving cream downstage. This was the money shot: fake blood, flesh, a cheap spinning gobo light, electric guitar, and lots of screaming. It's difficult now to put it into words, in the way that transcendent experiences often are, but here I had bumped up against the sublime. As it dissipated again into the more mundane, I was left with the feeling that I had learned something new. Something sticky and personal and possibly even terrible, and I exited the theater feeling slightly sick and definitely befuddled, but quite thankful that HKPG had taken me into their messy embrace for a little while.


    posted by tania @ 10:50 am | Permanent link

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Wednesday, March 8
    Fake Blood & Panties
    By by Bret Fetzer

    I wasn't bored, but neither was I engaged -- at least not in the usual sense of drawn into an event (imagined or immediate) that suspended my sense of time. In fact, Computer depended a bit too heavily on actions conducted in real time: Sorting a pile of m&ms into separate colors, assembling a chess board. While the fact that such activities have a clearly defined goal keeps them reasonably watchable, there's not a lot of pleasure to be taken from them -- and that, more than anything else, is what I find lacking in the High Kindergarten Performance Group: Pleasure.

    There are certainly moments of humor and the actors by and large are invested in what they're doing, but they don't seem to be having much fun. And pretty much all of the unconventional theater/performance art that I've enjoyed -- from the Wooster Group to Ultima Vez to the Compound -- the performers have clearly been enjoying themselves immensely. Even Forced Entertainment, whose work was fairly thin, was at least vibrant. HKPG is pursuing an affectless anti-acting style that doesn't seem to allow them to enjoy this whole non-linear performance vocabulary -- a vocabulary that, if you're not having fun with it and you're not using it to build some kind of alternative narrative (and HKPG certainly isn't bothering to do that), doesn't serve any more purpose than does passively and soullessly going through the rigors of Stanislavskian realism. Particularly when you're filling the stage with lamps, shaving cream, and glasses of Mountain Dew -- jesus, if you don't enjoy this activitiy, why do it at all?

    And if you're enjoying it, but you aggressively refuse to let the audience share that enjoyment...well, that raises the whole question of what the audience is doing there in the first place.

    Still, I wasn't bored. I did like it when Mike Pham, buried under piles of sleeping bags, began to play the accordian. I did like it every time they opened the refrigerator. I did like Aaron Allshouse training someone to take his place. I did like the musical sound of m&ms falling into glasses of Mountain Dew. As my companion said, "I didn't think about my butt until the last fifteen minutes!" And that -- given those goddamn uncomfortable chairs in the OTB studio -- is some kind of accomplishment.

    posted by crab @ 10:50 pm | Permanent link

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