by Marcina Zaccaria
Café Play is a rare, blissful experience conceived, structured, and directed by Erin B. Mee.
Joining a small group at 10:30AM at the Cornelia Street Café, it felt like the best kind of performance event. Actors appeared as servers, and performed short plays, musical vignettes, and dance numbers in the café aisles.
Some types of performance only seem to thrive in Greenwich Village. Café Play features spoken text and movement. With actors strolling among the patrons, there is a sense that you don’t know who the performer is and who the listener is. In a compact, perfectly designed space, art on the walls looked like dogs and birds, folded like origami from subway posters. Wood floors, and an old stove make this site absolutely cozy.
In such a space, you have to question who you are: a mother, an activist, a renegade, or a scholar. If you are all of these things, particularly in Greenwich Village, you might feel like you’re part of a long line of artists, destined to create great new works throughout the years. Here’s to the dancers and actors, Trinity Bobo, Caiti Lattimer, Jonathan Matthews, Jimmy Schatz, Jessica-Brittany Smith, Amanda Thickpenny, who have every sense of this.
While projecting out loud, discussing activism and the energy crisis, they craft “sections” in which every moment is attended to and acted through. They bring a seriousness to their performance, even when they are drawing flowers with crayons on table tops. Costumes are put together with a precision and delicacy that makes the finest images. Sound seems to come from anywhere, most surprisingly from a pink handbag in the corner. It’s an ingenious moment that’s so pleasant; it’s a technique codified by This is Not a Theater Company. “Subway Plays,” and other works by this company, have everything to do with the use of tracks, sometimes on cell phones.
Text is by Jenny Lyn Bader, Jessie Bear, Erin B. Mee, and Colin Waitt and some of the pieces in Café Play pack a different punch than others. With nods toward social consciousness and political awareness, there are also some fun, dystopic short plays, right in time for Halloween. There’s even the option of getting in touch with your inner zombie. “Kill Em’ with Kindness” reminds us that you must find the words before charging forward. “As Old As Salt” provides a great debate. All of the pieces remind us that we are complex humans, often gliding through the most challenging times. Hershey’s kisses were served before the final words from “Dance of Chocolate,” written by Erin B. Mee.
With a background studying with Stephen Petronio (and in Salzburg and Montreal), Choreographer Jonathan Matthews was able to create lines of dance effortlessly in this petit café. Dancers crawl into a corner near a table or descend to the floor, after circling about. Continuous motion was coordinated with punctuated text that, at some points, evokes the best of the beat generation.
Photos: Maria Baranova-Suzuki
Café Play was performed at Cornelia Street Cafe, located at 29 Cornelia Street on Friday, October 6.