When I first thought ahead to Fringe 2013, there was one show I knew that I had to see: Cecilies at the Mixed Blood. But their opening weekend I was moving, saying goodbye to family for five months, writing reports and documents, and otherwise losing my mind. So instead I made their last performance. (Sorry again, guys.)
Full disclosure now: The two co-directors are both recent Macalester alums, one of whom I have performed with, both of whom performers that I envy and admire for their brilliance, creativity, physicality, and strength. Talent crushes, let’s call them. But I will try to stomach my personal relationships with them for the sake of objectivity.
Now getting to the Mixed Blood in the early afternoon from St. Paul was a huge headache and, sadly, due to the strict Fringe policies of NO LATE SEATING, my friend that went to park the car was denied entrance to the house. I felt absolutely awful since it was the last performance of this show, but having volunteered at the Mixed Blood myself last year, I knew that the volunteers were just doing their jobs. (He said he soaked up some sun and ate his Chipotle burrito bowl, which on a day like yesterday, must have been bliss.)
That huge rock of guilt aside, the performance was spectacular. The show was easily more than I could have anticipated. These performers had energy, creativity, and humor all embedded in a technically simple show with some very ambitious messages. The only set pieces were a pile of suitcases. The only props of significance: a black briefcase, black leather gloves, a black belt, and a black hat with a large flower. The costume: a black jacket.
Cecilies offered tasty morsels for a physical theater junkie to gobble with relish. Bodies as tables, planes, cars, turnstiles, a TV; voices as alarms, birds, songs, blares, and yips. My favorite moments were when the performers interacted directly together to create tableaus both daring and dazzling. Thalia flips over Nate with ease, he swings her into the air, then tumbles over Jeesun’s back: this is how they tell their story. Another contented sigh came when three of the performers used their hands to create a bird flying away: first both of Anna’s hands, then Anna and Thalia, then Thalia’s two, joined with Nate’s, and then Nate sends the bird off into the ether. It was simple, it was moving, it was fluid.
Each performer brought such imagination and life into a hugely energetic, acrobatic, and graceful show that was smooth and deliberate, yet organic and breathing with each beat. Thalia Kostman and Jeesun Choi, along with their collaborators Nate Gebhard and Anna Lewein, use their bodies to fashion the rhythms, motions, and therefore truths in our hectic lives. The message hits home for many--this one in particular.
What, ultimately, is the cost of living through such chaos? Of packing your Google calendar into a color-coded triply-booked untidy and cluttered manipulator of your world and your days? Why do we do this? What stops someone from getting swept into this tide? Perhaps it is the feeling that I am the only one who can do this. Well, I’ve heard that named a lie, a lie that perpetuates this self-destructive mania that fuels this show, but maybe I digress.
I am running out of time here but suffice it to say that this piece was exactly what I wanted at the Fringe. These performers have zest and life and seeing them was a joy.
Congratulating them after the show, they seemed exhausted but proud. Awesome, awesome work.
"We're off to drink! You coming?"
Tempting. Very very tempting. But I had promised to keep Fringing and try to earn this Gold Pass after all.