Carolina Performing Arts’ Tuesday, Oct. 15th, presentation of The Day, choreographed by Lucinda Childs, is a visually stunning avant-garde dance production that thrills, and intrigues, and thrills again. The show is actually two shows presented together: The Day and World to Come. The Day focuses on memory; and its companion piece, World to Come, focuses on death and letting go.
When the show starts, the stage is bare save a silent black-and-white video flashing images of two women speaking. They are standing in an abandoned mill, and while their lips move, they are speaking without sound. Cello player Maya Beiser, dressed in white, is resting on a reflective ramp, hair long and wild; and she pulls plaintive notes from her cello.
Dancer Wendy Whelan is onstage, cloaked in a white toga-like sheath. As Whelan dances, a woman starts speaking. She is reading aloud responses given to the statement, “I remember the day I …” Responses were turning points in people’s lives, shared online.
The answers were important to someone anonymous, and yet as these statements are spoken and acknowledged through Maya Beiser’s performance of composer David Lang’s music and Whelan’s dance, these moments have a dramatic impact. They become windows into other people’s lives, other people’s experiences, and their statements speak to universal truths. This is the human experience presented onstage.
“… I could no longer get out of bed …”
“… I disrespected my mom …”
“… I first heard his name …”
“… I knew without a shadow of a doubt …”
“… I tasted the wine …”
“… I took them …”
As she dances, Wendy Whelan manipulates various items, such as a rope, elastic, two metal bars, and a ball draped with fabric. Each statement and each movement combine and leave it to the audience to interpret. For instance, when the orator spoke “I gave my life over to him”, the two metal bars being used by Whelan briefly become a metal cross. Was this someone’s religious conversion? Or the start of someone’s downfall? We only know that it was significant to someone.
After brief pause for applause, World to Come commenced. This piece was written based upon the effect of the twin-tower attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The piece is meant to pay tribute to the souls lost in the wreckage and to our universal departure from this world into the afterlife. This time, the principals wore all black, and the music was much more dissonant and staccato. Vague sighs are heard.
The backdrop is an ocean at night, black and foreboding. Is this the crossing of the River Styx, the endless abyss? Is the dancer the moon? There is an interesting interweaving of prerecorded cello overlain with live cello, voice, and sighs. When three white sheaths of fabric fall from the rafters, two appear to be the towers themselves, but who is the third for? Is it for the third building that collapsed that day? Or is it for us? For our loss of Innocence? Loss of our humanity? As with life after death, there are so many questions.
Kudos to the set designer Sara Brown and film guy Joshua Higgason. The setting was simply spectacular and riveting.
From the Department of Picky-Picky: During World to Come, the volume was simply too loud. Who knew that I would want to turn down the volume on a solo cello performance?
Co-commissioned by Carolina Performing Arts, this show presses the boundaries and feels eternal, all at the same time. The mundane and meaningful come together. Quite a feat.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 17th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Brian Howe (who awarded the show 3 of 5 stars): https://indyweek.com/culture/stage/the-day-carolina-performing-arts-review/ and Oct. 16th mini-preview by Brian Howe: https://indyweek.com/events/day-maya-beiser-wendy-whelan-lucinda-childs-david-lang/; and Oct. 16th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Chelsea Huber: https://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=9589.
THE DAY, featuring cellist Maya Beiser, dancer Wendy Whelan, choreographer Lucinda Childs, and composer David Lang (Carolina Performing Arts, Oct. 15 in Memorial Hall, 114 E. Cameron Ave., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus).
SHOW: https://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/ros_perf_series/the-day/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/923824794652847/.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Carolina-Performing-Arts/9560250967, https://twitter.com/uncperformarts, and https://www.youtube.com/user/UNCPerformArts.
BLOG (The Overture): https://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/the-overture-blog/.
VENUE: https://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/ros_venue/memorial-hall/, http://unchistory.web.unc.edu/building-narratives/memorial-hall/, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNC_Memorial_Hall.
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.