Held at The Public Theater’s flagship building at Astor Place and five partner venues, Under the Radar Festival is a highlight of the winter arts season in New York City, spotlighting the best of experimental theater from artists around the world. The 18th annual edition of the festival runs from January 4 to 22 and features 36 productions, ranging from full on orchestrated epics to introspective monologue stints. TV and City will be attending and covering several Under the Radar shows.
By Elazar Abrahams
My experience at the Under the Radar Festival has been lovely, getting to see a bunch of off-kilter and experimental shows I wouldn’t have otherwise sought out. However, it also taught me that maybe my tastes in theater are more conventional than I’d care to admit. The productions I visited all took big swings, and while I admire that, more often that not I failed to actually enjoy them. Nowhere was that clearer than the two and a half hour head scratcher that is Field of Mars, now playing at NYU’s Skirball Center.
The play begins simply enough, with the biblical tale of Adam and Eve transposed onto a modern day American diner called “Creation.” From there however, what was easy to follow becomes the weirdest and most faux-intellectual stage work I’ve ever witnessed. A pair of actors crawl on the floor on their stomachs, four more cast members simulate an orgy on each other in total silence, another spends what seems like eternity listing the names of different punk rock bands, and another has a conversation over the phone about the mundane for just as long. This show is definitely not for everyone, but it’s unclear who, if anyone, it is for.
The writer and cast are supposedly staples of the downtown theater scene so they must have talent if they continue to get work, but the cast of Field of Mars performs the show so monotonously and with zero inflection that both acts become a mind numbing slog to get through. It is a bizarre choice that makes it seem the ensemble simply does not know their lines and missed rehearsal.
I hesitate to really go any further as the size of the show really does mean that any review could count for or against its future. But if you need any more indication of the quality of this flummoxing production, in the first act two critics in my row put their heads down and napped.
‘Field of Mars’ is playing through January 29. Find more information and tickets HERE.