By Marcina Zaccaria
Winsome Brown has an imperious presence and light, red hair, tousled like a serpent. With the fortitude to release the word, her mastery of the material isn’t diminished by the lyrical selection of text in Hit The Body Alarm at The Performing Garage.
The language of Hit The Body Alarm includes an intricate soundscape designed by Sean Hagerty, with recorded music by John Zorn. Winsome Brown, who received her A.B. from Harvard, calls upon her inner Irish storyteller. She records the live text, testing her intonation, warming up with a devil’s chant. Text, drawn from Paradise Lost, is crisp. Poetry recycles from the sound board.
There is enough unsettling in the content. Text from John Milton and James Joyce explores Satan’s Fall from Heaven to Hell, and the revelation of the apple from a beckoning Eve. For Hit The Body Alarm, Lighting Designer Michael O’Connor creates striking fundamental images, including the opening tableau of the dark angel falling from grace behind a sheer curtain. Large black wings and an androgynous body suit are some of the stronger stylistic statements.
The evening includes six sections. The Title Piece, Hit The Body Alarm, is a vivid story with text by Brad Rouse. A jail tale delivered point blank, it is a testament to the spirit caged, destined to be broken. Winsome Brown leads the listener through a multi-ethnic prison scene. The body is violated. The soul is obscured, wrapped in indignity in a barred pit.
Investigations of the human condition persist, as the performance journeys from the netherworld to the mundane. She adds her own text, speaking as Elaine, an out-of-work actress in Los Angeles. The intricacy of her story includes being a nanny, driving down Wilshire Boulevard, after tending to the child, to an actress experiencing her moment of Hollywood fame. Winsome Brown, who gained acclaim for This is Mary Brown at La MaMa, approaches her monologues with candor. She carefully weaves in suffering, the difficulty of being a woman in the industry, and what it feels like before ashes cover Elaine’s home.
She tells all of this before delving into a monologue about Eve before the Fall. She performs Eve’s Dream naked and sitting on plastic. To descend into an abyss, one must consider the elements. At The Performing Garage, the legendary home of The Wooster Group, wires, curtains, and a large metal chair on a pedestal surround. Carefully gesturing to her sound designer and lighting technician, flanked on either side of her, Winsome Brown utilizes the tech without forgetting the power of the spoken word. Eve’s Dream deals with hope, and of course, temptation.
Co-Director Brad Rouse trades spectacle for the essential truth of the actor. Deep spiritual value is discovered. Hit The Body Alarm is not a quest without just cause. It is plain, serious, and ripe with meaning.
Hit The Body Alarm is running until Oct. 2 at The Performing Garage, located at 33 Wooster Street, NYC. It shows Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sunday at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased by visiting ThePerformingGarage.com.
Photo: Theo Cote