The New York Neo-Futurists’ gem of a small piece, A Simple Art, is a wonderful play that I am going to spoil by giving it too much exposure. But I can’t think of a way to tell the everyone how magical this piece is without talking about it. A Simple Art is one of those plays that is best seen after you stumble into the room, clueless and having just wandered by. However, as it is located up a long staircase on 8th Ave in mid-town, no one but a few hot-yoga students will ever "just wander by". And so, I must set expectations to get you to hike up the stairs (hint - take the elevator). Here are the expectations - go see this, it’s great!
|Nessa Norwich, Kyra Sims and Alex Vlahov in A Simple Art|
A Simple Art bills itself as “a true crime documentary play”. One of the writers / performers knew a fascinating man, Father Eric Freed. On New Year’s Eve, 2014, Father Eric was murdered in a quiet, lush part of Northern California. Neo-Futurist Alex Vlahov went on a personal journey to investigate and document the murder of his old teacher, Father Eric.
A Simple Art starts quite basically: the cast explaining who Alex talked to, where Humboldt County is located, the economic and historical background of the area. The three performers, Alex, Kyra Sims and Nessa Norich, are constantly moving: engaging with each other, standing in for towns people, displaying examples of items and, in a few cases, playing the French horn. Recordings, music and general noise fill the stage.
All of these elements come together to tell the story of the night Father Eric was murdered. But more than that, they diagram how stories are created and affect us all. There is an evocative moment when the sound of a hotel sign swaying in the wind is played. In context it is frightening and sad and you can feel the cold Pacific wind in that snippet of electronically captured dissonance.
A Simple Art moves for that singular story to the greater stories of all of us. I loved it. Running at a spare 90 minutes or so, the team ignores the 4th wall. They don’t just address the audience, but they interact and pull us into their world. Don’t take my word for it, wander by and see it.
A Simple Art | Creators / Performers: Nessa Norish, Kyra Sims, Alex Vlahov (also Directed) | website