Chess Match No. 5
Lauren, Will Bond
Photos by Maria Baranova
By Eugene Paul
Jocelyn Clarke, heeding director Anne Bogart’s long held desire to craft the
extraordinary John Cage’s actual expressed revelations and conclusions
regarding time, space, hearing, seeing, sllence, sound has done his darnedest
so successfully you actually think Will Bond, as HE and Ellen Lauren as SHE are
speaking to each other. And to us, the audience, too, of course. It all seems
so meant to be that director Anne Bogart couldn’t possible have had much to
do, which, of course of course means that she has been resoundingly
successful. Her – their – presentation is a delight.
everybody’s cup of tea, is difficult, to put it mildly, for the most
confounding of reasons: his utter simplicity. But try and get there. Ha!
Consider that John Cage’s rarified renown as a musician spikes whenever someone
refers to his most famous – most notorious? –work: “4:33”. Many of us recognize
that that is the title of his composition written for a single musician, to be
performed in four minutes and thirty-three seconds.. During that time, said
instrumentalist must remain in position, poised with his or her instrument but
remain still, appreciating all the sounds around her or him in the so-called
silence. If you invest yourself in the thought behind the exposition of that
concept, infinity occurs. But we’re not ready for infinity yet.
doubtless why Chess Match No.5 presents its own set of intrigues,
exquisitely unfolded by our superb performers using John Cage’s very own words
in director Bogart’s very own milieu. Setting: (by James Schuette) as bland as
bland can be, black walls, white floor, then archly twiddled: a ceiling full of
approximately 149 mismatched naked light bulbs suspended to a common level.
Center, two chairs, pink seats, either side of a small table. Upstage right a
larger table, rather spare, laden with tea and toast makings. A wastebasket.
Left, another pink seated chair. Downstage left a low table with a radio.
Bond as He. He smiles politely, acknowledging us, addresses us as much as he
addresses his concepts of how and whether we are seeing what we are seeing and
hearing what we are hearing and what that may mean as each separate function or
taken together in conjunction and what that may mean. It sounds so simple so
right, so on the mark that we find ourselves seeing as minutely as we have ever
and listening every bit as carefully. Something’s happened already. Not so
much to him as to us. Watching him prepare tea and toast, is this our chess
match, HE versus us? But he’s not competing. He’s just making tea and toast.
How is that competing?
Ellen Lauren , SHE, enters and sets up the chess board at the little table
center stage, center room, do we know that indeed, there is a chess match which
we – presumably – will observe. All the while, HE and SHE engaging in
conversation, more and more the conversation sounding as if HE is, actually,
John Cage. And—so is SHE? Her words are his words, too. Her thoughts are his,
her anecdotes are his, his toast is eaten by her. He makes more.
Whatever can this mean, now? They are smiling through their choreography,
dancing expertly if not professionally, movements coordinated to each other, to
the music, to the sound. What kind of sound is music? Before, when SHE opened
the door, there was a blast of sounds, trafficky, peopley. Was that music,
too? And those sounds, those radio mutterings, numbers, Russian? Spanish? How
do we hear them, in what mode, what classification? Or none? Or acceptance of
things as they are? Our minds are abuzz. This is not just chess. But we knew
that before we came.
Will Bond and
Ellen Lauren are so singularly accomplished, so good at what they do that they
positively shine. This is acting of a kind rarely seen in the city. And even
more rarely heard. Every word, clear, unassisted. You cannot say that about
another performance on any stage, in any theatre in New York City. I’ll throw
in London, too. Barney O’Hanlon designed the effortless choreography, James
Schuette did the costumes as well as the set, Brian H. Scott lighted it all,
Darron L. West designed the sounds. And the title.
Match No.5. At the
Abingdon Theatre Company, June Havoc Theatre, 312 West 36th Street,
between 8th and 9th Avenues. Tickets: $55. Discounts.
212-352-3101. 90 min. Thru Apr 2.
thinking, directing, acting. Do not hesitate. Go..