By Marcina Zaccaria
Trash Cuisine, the latest play by Belarus Free Theater, explores capital punishment using stark, memorable images.
At the play’s opening, a sort of elegant ringmaster explains that he’ll be leading a cook’s tour around the world. Belarus Free Theater previously produced Zone of Silence and Discover Love. Trash Cuisine, previously performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Young Vic in London, explores capital punishment around the world, including countries like Rwanda and Argentina.
With Trash Cuisine, Belarus Free Theater returns to La MaMa with performers from Belarus, Australia, and the United States. Belarus Free Theater is unafraid to explore the physicality of capital punishment in their latest work. Actors simulate hanging, being shot by a firing squad, and death by electric chair. It is harrowing. There is a surrender and abandon in the bodies of the experimental theater actors onstage, before they are dragged away in trash bags.
Two actresses eat strawberries and cream and sip champagne while they discuss how to kill a person. It is decadent. Their voices sound matter of fact, with no sense of delight from the kill. When a moment seems too hollow, the stage is enlivened with music, images, or movement. Live drumming makes for a fine break in the action, as does a wailing sound of electrics delivered through the voice of an actress onstage. Statistics of those killed appear on the back wall. Black, white, and red imagery is used throughout the performance.
Belarus Free Theater seems to be using their bodies as instruments of social protest. If they are suffering, who is suffering with them? If they are harmed, who is harmed with them? Stripped down and exposed to the core, they present in solidarity with those affected by execution. When they take on the suffering of others, they become a vessel for sorrow. It is somehow both inclusive and removed. Somehow, the shockwaves don’t seem to reverberate.
Actual food is used in the play. As items are prepared onstage, scent wafts through the audience. Actors introduce colorful spices, making something beautiful after much has been tossed around. At the end of the show, actors appear in a line, chopping onions with different sized knives, allowing food to fly toward the audience. As an entire performance, though, Trash Cuisine is decidedly somber and peaceful.
La MaMa is often a home for social protest and bears witness to those living in exile. Belarus Free Theater resides in London, and remembers their Eastern European heritage.They will be hosting public demonstrations and a talk back. Prepared to look at all sides of capital punishment, they don’t leave out the fact that executed individuals in Belarus are not returned to their families after they are killed.
Trash Cuisine will be running through May 17 at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, located at 66 E. 4 Street.