In Review: “In Which…” at Public Functionary

IN WHICH _______ AND OTHERS DISCOVER THE END

Created by Liz MillerRachel JendrzejewskiSuperGroupBrute Heart
Text by Rachel Jendrzejewski
Music by Brute Heart
Installation by Liz Miller
Performed by Brute Heart and SuperGroup

at Public Functionary till April 4

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It’s easy to write about traditional performance art such as theatre and dance because usually there is some overarching through line or super-narrative that provides a context for what you’re looking at on stage. By contrast, performance art can be a trickier beast due to the often non-linear nature of the work and to the fact that you the audience member have to actively work harder to tease out the meaning of the work, if there is any there. That said, when everything and everyone is firing on all cylinders, non-traditional performances can be moving experiences.

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And boy howdy is In Which _______ and Others Discover The End such an experience. Created in collaboration between installation artist Liz Miller, playwright Rachel Jendrzejewski, the performance collective SuperGroup, and the band Brute Heart, it is a moving meditation on societal anxiety in the modern age. Rather than tell you what exactly it’s about (for experiencing the piece cold is what lends it its power), I want to highlight why it is such an engaging work and a triumph for all the artists involved as well as for Public Functionary, where the work is being performed now till April 4.

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The Space – Given that the whole gallery has been given over to Ms. Miller’s installation it’s fascinating to see how it has morphed from a space for a gallery goer to casually interact with into a quasi-traditional performance set. The installation provides an engaging space not only for the performers to dart around and through but it also manages to subtly tie into the themes of the piece. Pending on the context, her installation looks like a collection of gears on top of one another, a multi-faceted iceberg, or a an artfully assembled boneyard; all of which works within the context of the piece. The versatility of the installation allows for changes of mood thanks to Heidi Eckwall’s ingenious lighting design. And it must be said that the layout of the “stage” is probably the best use of Public Functionary’s space as a performance venue, and should they continue to have more performance art in the space (which I strongly encourage), this is an ideal set up.

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The Text – Ms. Jendrzejewski’s text for the piece is more of a collage of moments than an actual script; with vignettes about climate change, ghost sightings in Italy, an undiscovered new ligament on the human body, and more. But the stories themselves aren’t the point necessarily. By using repeating text and variations of the same moment over and over it allows for a sneaking sense of anxiety and dread to seep into this idyllic boneyard / graveyard. and it’s built so subtly that you don’t notice it until the very end. This sense of atmosphere is heightened by Brute Heart’s evocative score, which serves as an exhilarating counterpoint to all of the action.

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The Ensemble – Performance art lives and dies on the performers and I have to say that this is probably some of the best ensemble work I’ve seen all season! It’s refreshing to see a cast that not only delivers on the demanding physical work, that not only delivers on all the various turns of the script (which is hilarious, harrowing, and heartbreaking in equal measure) but is so simpatico with one another that every single person on that stage is an essential part of the experience. Their work individually and collectively is inspiring!

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At its core, In Which _______ and Others Discover The End is a challenging work, both in terms of production and in what it asks of its audience. Thankfully for Liz Miller, Rachel Jendrzejewski, SuperGroup, Brute Heart, and Public Functionary, this is a thrilling capstone to a truly unique collaboration that has created an ephemeral work filled with humor, heart, and humanity.

*****

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In Which _______ and Others Discover The End continues through April 4, with performance at 8pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. All performance take place at Public Functionary, located at 1400 12th Ave NE in Minneapolis. Admission is free, but reservations are required due to limited seating and can be made on Public Functionary’s site.

Photo Credit: Joe & Jen Photography

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