A GUN SHOW
December 2, 2016
An elk stares out at the audience, triggering either our hunter/gatherer or vegetarian instincts, from a still on the back wall of the BAM Harvey. For much of So¯ Percussion’s 65 minute A Gun Show, the celebrated, New York City based percussion ensemble seem stumped, like a deer staring into the headlights blazing off the controversies stirred by the innumerable shooting horrors and our paralysis, given the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Unlike Amy Schumer, in “The Gun Show,” who reassures callers to her home shopping program that, of course, they can buy a gun(s) of all kinds, this theatrical venture directed by Ain Gordon offers neither protest nor parody, but rather a deconstructionist reflection. Two moments stood out. After a preamble of miming in silence with the ensemble at the four corners of the raked, red stage, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, Jason Treuting, and Eric Cha-Beach rushed downstage to place boards on top of snare drums. They played in unison on parts of a Russian rifle arranged on the board much as a dentist would put his tools. A projected still of these parts gave us a chance for further inspection as we absorbed the precision of the performers and the unlikely beauty of the sound.
Later on, the charismatic Emily Johnson strode upstage to beat a gong with all the desperation of a mother who had lost a child in the Newton, Connecticut Elementary School shooting. The power of the gong sound was sacrificed as Johnson flails, a metaphor for our impotence as a nation to effectively challenge the National Rife Association and put an end to deranged use of guns.
The ensemble, which expanded to include eight other percussionists, played together sometimes with the galvanizing clarity of a military band. A group huddled upstage around two speakers who leaned into a microphone to share barely audible stories. Equally obscure were references to their research frustration with redacted material being deleted courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
Gordon, Johnson and So¯ Percussion have collaborated often, but what they refer to as “the Second Amendment soundtrack” lacks the anguish of what has happened in its wake.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers