Monday, September 29, 2008

Day 101: Particles in Motion

Last night I saw Atomic City at the LaMaMa experimental theatre club in Manhattan. The play is set in Oak Ridge, TN in 1942 where 70,000 people were relocated to create a secret city and put to work on the Manhattan project. The performance didn't address the history or the specifics of Oak Ridge directly, which allowed the production to be about much more than any one place or time. It takes of the lives of two families and lets them exist as the microcosm for the whole. The minimalist set and stark white costumes, with live music played by the actors themselves, lent essential visual and aural components to a production that was otherwise all about movement. As bodies and instruments crashed and flew across the perfectly geometric suburban backyards (a giant square of green astro-turf) you can't help but sense what must have been the frenzied sensations of uncertainty, confinement, and tension that existed in Oak Ridge. These are the sensations connected to simply being human, but also to living in places such as suburbia that strip away, or overlay ideas of who or what you should be- and in this case what the country needed you to be and give up for "the cause". The bodies of the actors are in motion for almost the entire piece-like atoms bouncing off of and into one another. The piece is visual, physical, exhausting and contained- while pushing at its self-imposed boundaries. Perhaps something like what life and work in Oak Ridge might have been. As the set "walls" raise and lower, fences across the two "yards" are built and break down, people reach across and retract. Immense effort was expended to "hold things together" until the work was done.

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