Review: "Afterparty: The Rothko Studio" Takes Audiences Inside the Artist's World--Literally
Afterparty: The Rothko Studio
Choreographed by Rachel Cohen; composed by Maria Dessena; adapted by Barry Rowell; story by S.M. Dale
Directed by Ralph Lewis
Presented by Peculiar Works Project at 222 Bowery, NYC
June 27-30, 2019
|Isabella Schiller, Jason Howard, Nathan Keiller, Caiti Latimer, Glenn Feinstein, Catherine Porter. Photo credit: Peculiar Works Project|
Now Rothko’s studio, which has been vacant for a decade, is going on the rental market along with other properties in the building. When the building’s space manager learned about the site-specific work of the creative group “Peculiar Works Project,” she invited director Ralph Lewis, along with producers Catherine Porter and Barry Rowell, to tour the vacant properties in the building. He says they immediately saw the potential for a unique performance, and the creative team at PWP took on the challenge to stage a show there before the space goes on the market in July.
Developed in just two months, Afterparty explores the rich history of The Bunker through interactive theater. Thoughtful lighting and set design bring the space to life, while the cast populates it with historic inhabitants like Michael Goldberg and Eva Hesse. The audience is ushered from room by room, each animated by performances. In one memorable segment, cast member Jenna Zhu gives a lively and compelling reading of a passage from William S. Burroughs’ “The Finger” in character as the author, crouched in a dark but dramatically lit stairwell as the audience files past.
|Catherine Porter, Caiti Latimer, Nathan Keiller, Jason Howard, |
Isabella Schiller, and Glenn Feinstein (clockwise).
Photo credit: Peculiar Works Project
The three dancers—Toby Billowitz, Aidan Feldman, and Despina Sophia Stamos—offer standout performances, effectively generating an atmosphere that suspended everydayness and made me receptive to the time-traveling conceit of the show. The segment where they whirled about Ballet Mécanique-style to Mozart’s “Eine Klein Nachtmusik” as they served dinner was droll and even a little spellbinding. It seemed out of place in the piece until I looked it up afterwards and noticed that Ballet Mécanique was co-directed by Fernand Léger, one of 222 Bowery’s famous historic inhabitants. Afterparty will be most rewarding for those prepared to ferret out Easter eggs like that one—and for those interested in the period who want a dramatic tour of the historic space.