Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Friday, April 20, 2012

degeneration x - Loss of Living Color

Perf Productions has mounted its new multimedia play, degeneration x, at the Living Theater in the Lower East Side.  It is obviously a labor of love, and has a lot to recommend it to an audience.  Micah B. Chartrand stars as Xavier, a young illustrator overwhelmed by circumstances, in this innovative piece.
When the audience is introduced to Xavier, he thinks he is having a mental breakdown.  Xavier is experiencing recurring hallucinations and migraines.  After some initial trepidation where he questions his own mental stability, he starts the search for answers.  Xavier discovers his symptoms are due to a loss of vision and a rare condition associated with it.  Charles Bonnet Syndrome occurs occasionally with severe loss of vision and is manifest by the brain creating visual stimuli to compensate.  It turns out that Xavier is suffering from C.B.S. induced visual hallucinations.  Despite understanding what is happening, Xavier’s hallucinations become more real.  He begins to see the same attractive young woman, Simone.  He even interacts with her, knowing full well that she is an illusion.
degeneration x uses multimedia within the play to explore and illustrate Xavier’s reality.  The sets consist of Xavier’s living room, bedroom and a doctor’s office.  But physical spaces in between are  explored through video, as are some of Xavier's hallucinations.  Multimedia can overwhelm a show, but in the case of degeneration x they serve the story.  The audience experiences the world as Xavier does, moving between clarity and divergence with reality.
Micah Chartrand as Xavier, with Meredith Edwards as Simone - on screen, in degeneration x

An excellent use of the multi-media form is used in conjunction with Xavier’s attempt at illustration.  The video shows his perspective as he draws on the page.  While drawing, the objects he has previously sketched begin to move and morph.  It is outrageously effective in showing Xavier’s world slipping away – and his reaction to it.
Most of the supporting cast exists to help define Xavier or his condition.  Leah Bachar, as Xavier’s sister Isis, brings the only other real character and story into the piece.  Isis and Xavier's lives don't intersect often, but she is drawn to New York to be with her brother by something she doesn’t quite understand.  Isis is a self-centered character, but Ms. Bacher brings out the humanity when displaying Isis’ feelings towards her brother.
As Xavier, Mr. Chartrand is onstage or on screen nearly all of the time.  The transition between mediums is excellently handled by him; anger, paranoia and resignation register equally and concurrently in both the live and in the prerecorded pieces.  He is excellent.
There are some problems with the show, primarily the length of the play.  It runs too long and could use some trimming.  The production team has done a good job of balancing the video sequences against the live action sequences, but both would benefit from some tightening up.
Director Mereidth Edwards has done a very good job of integrating the media and the live action into a cohesive whole.  degeneration x promises a bright future for Perf Productions as a group of talented storytellers.
degeneration x
Multimedia Creation Team: Leah Bachar & Meredith Edwards
Director: Meredith Edwards
Perf Productions: Maria Aparo, Leah Bachar, Meredith Edwards and Lin Laurin
Cast: Micah B. Chartrand, Gordon Gray, Lauren Hennessy

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