by Adam Cohen
Halfway through One Night Only (running as long as we can) there’s a decided shift. It occurs during an audience participation segment, orders are barked through a megaphone by Anna Bass, a stentorian coach. And we listen, cause that’s what you do for coaches and also to not be called out for cheating – putting a foot down, leaning against a wall, and wanting to win. A lucky winner is chosen to read the litany of injuries performers Bass and Monica Bill Barnes have experienced – concussions, pulled muscles, operations. The moment creates a sense of the sacrifice, training, dedication, passion engendered within sports, theater, and artists. And it compels the audience with appreciation and good will for the performers while being mind boggling in completeness.
Many in our society love sports. Athletes are celebrated or pillared for their acts and antics – on field and off. Their accomplishments are held in (high) regard, for better or worse, many remembered for the trouble, retirement and off-seasons bring. There is no off-season for performers, just unemployment.
One Night Only (running as long as we can) is a meditation on winning, sports, performance, aging, accomplishment and the exhilaration therein. Barnes and Bass appear towards the back of the theater, at first, running on treadmills. Accompanied by Robert Saenz De Viteri, we hear the summations of pre-show interviews. There’s audience expectations laid bare with wry commentary and precise movements and expressive facials from Barnes and Bass. The commentary remarks on people dying twice – through retirement and death.
There’s much to like about this piece. It’s short (which my audience-mate appreciated), although the time checks throughout do tend to push one to glance at their watch – while also creating a sense of expectation. For what can top record breaking spinning and excessive snapping. Sporting events have an illogic to their logic – as does this piece. Somedays pitchers’ pitches don’t have the snap or speed they should. And batters take advantage. The defense preys on the quarterback and forces poor, rushed throws. The mind beats the runners’ body. The wry commentary is meta. The dancers are a joy to behold – expressive with big and little movements. There’s a lot to think about in this rumination on accomplishment and mortality.
Barnes, Bass, and company will be on hand, snapping and spinning their way into your hearts through October 6th at WP Theater. The show runs 64 minutes.
Tickets and more information at wptheater.org