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Off-Off-Broadway Review

Problem Radical(s)

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Problem Radical(s)
Photo Source: Danielle Colburn
Object Collection's Problem Radical(s) bills itself as an opera, but it is not. Not in any recognizable fashion. It is, to put it plainly, noise. Typing such a sentence makes me feel old. Then again, I am now older by 90 of the longest minutes I've ever spent. And my rather politically liberal theatre companion thinks he may have been turned conservative ("It's shows like this that shut down the NEA"). So let it not be said that Problem Radical(s) accomplishes nothing.

I will attempt to describe the evening as simply as possible, which will still make it seem more interesting than it is. The first-floor theatre of Performance Space 122 has been covered in cardboard, the cardboard covered in mounds of secondhand clothing. Stage left is an elevated platform for three musicians; upstage is a board on which the four performers paste sheets of printed paper to form an image of a futuristic flying device. Television sets are present but rarely used. One of them flashes text one word at a time; another rotates through images of workplaces, and another through images of the audience. The performers state text without tone but with plenty of changes in pitch.

Gestures that should be playful are rendered cold, nasty, and brutish. For a work that bills itself as "nonhierarchical," Problem Radical(s) feels awfully oppressive. Fans of the piece—if they exist—will doubtlessly argue that I did not "get it." I'm of the opinion that the emperor has no clothes.

Presented by and at Performance Space 122,

150 First Ave., NYC.

April 25May 10. Wed.–Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.

(212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com, or www.ps122.org.

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