LIZ ONE by John Jesurun

Date: 24.Sep.2010
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The New York Times, October 16, 2009,Dance Review ‘Liz One’
A Tudor Who Seems a Touch Mad

It’s always a pleasure to leave a work wanting to see it again, simply to make sure you have a grasp on all its movable, slippery parts. In a world of sound bites and status updates it’s good — even necessary — to remember not everything is easily digested.

Luckily “Liz One (Her Secret Diaries in the Land of 1,000 Dances)” runs through the end of the month, allowing time for return visits to the Chocolate Factory, where the show opened on Wednesday evening.

Written, directed and designed by John Jesurun, this hourlong, two-person production delves into the fast unraveling mind of an elderly Elizabeth I of England, called Liz One, who is portrayed with fiery fragility by Mr. Jesurun’s longtime collaborator Black-Eyed Susan, whose sometimes distractingly unsteady line delivery almost seems like a character choice.

There’s nothing unsteady about the queen’s foil, Twin Glimmer, who is her secret child, underling, invention and all-around coping device. As played by Benjamin Forster, he is a marvelously conflicted concoction, his jaw by turns clenched and quivering, the banked rages in his disconcerting gaze frequently dying down to weary amusement.

Audiences have much time to contemplate this gaze — and Liz One’s frightened, defiant one — while the two trade dense, knotty and often wickedly funny salvos.

He menaces her with a dagger. She is unimpressed, ordering him to “drop the chalupa,” and he does.

“Chihuahua-brain! Are you French?” she scoffs. “ I am who I am. You are nobody till somebody kills you.”

Mr. Jesurun, long a master of creating, and subverting, dizzying mixed-media architecture, has built a hall of convex mirrors and video, both live and recorded, so that the performers often appear to us as technology-mediated, disembodied heads, their exploded realities layered over images of tapestries, constellations, smoke, waves and flame. And viewers themselves are caught in the mirrors and pressed up close against the action, whether as members of the court or shadows of an unstable mind. (Mr. Jesurun’s decision to use the theater’s length instead of its depth creates a terrifically claustrophobic field of action.)

These tautly choreographed visuals forge a rich theater of images, enhanced by Jeff Nash’s jewel-tone lighting and Pamelia Kurstin’s quiet, sinuous score. The physical set is wonderfully austere: a white room anchored by José Ho’s simple, clean-lined white throne. When the razzle-dazzle of projections recedes you see it for what it is: a hollowed-out room of the soul, where all things are possible until all things come to an end.

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