Volume III, Issue I Spring 2004

A hip acrobatic happening with angst

'De La Guarda' flies angrily through the air

By Lucy Komisar


De La Guarda
Created and directed by Pichon Baldinu and Diqui James
Music by Gaby Kerpel

Daryl Roth Theatre
20 Union Square East at East 15 St.
New York

This production would some years ago have been called a happening, if by that you might describe overhead bodies seen in shadow as they float above billowing, translucent sheeting. Or people on ropes flying through the air or rapidly climbing a diagonal along a wall, or people standing on a platform stomping and chanting as they are drenched with "rain" and throw wet paper into the audience.

Villa Villa
Photo by Richard Mitchell
De La Guarda is an Argentine troupe of acrobatic performance artists who have taken this production to cities in Latin America and Europe. Think of it as a circus act with angst. Some of the pieces, in fact, seem rather threatening. It there's a message, it's not sweetness and light. And it definitely catches you up for the hour of madness. It's become a cult phenomenon with college kids.

A man breaks through the sheeting at the ceiling and hangs upside down on a rope. People swinging on the ropes grab at each other, then pull roughly apart. A man in a suit stands on a platform while another man, suspended upside down from the underside, wears nothing on his posterior but black leather bands that remind one of sado-masochistic garb. A woman swinging on a rope smashes violently, legs akimbo, into the wall.

Occasionally, the flyers grab up members of the audience for unexpected sweeps high into the performance space.

"Villa Villa," the former name of the play, means "city city." If this is a commentary about urban life, it's one of violence, anomie, craziness. The production is enhanced by chimes, drums and horns, colored lights, strobes and smoke.

There are no seats in the theater, and if you stand near the middle, be prepared to be grabbed for flight or at the very least dampened.

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