This performance marked my first experience seeing the much-acclaimed monologist, Daniel Kitson – a favorite at St. Ann’s Warehouse in DUMBO. Except, it wasn’t exactly a performance, and Analog.ue doesn’t quite display Kitson’s talents as a monologist. The script is heard by way of prerecorded audio, projected from twenty-three tape recorders. Each recorder plays a fragment of the story, and it is Kitson’s role in every performance to play them in perfect order so that the story is told seamlessly. It’s clear that Kitson means to say something about how we craft and retell stories. Though, in the show’s opening, he confesses that there is no significance to his using twenty-three recorders. That line made the audience laugh, but it made me wary of the artist for admitting so readily that his artistic process is at least partially accidental.
Analog.ue opens on an expansive black stage, alit solely by two lamps projected toward the back wall. We see Kitson’s silhouette amidst a cluster of vintage-looking reel-to-reel recorders. The image is striking and rather beautiful. Kitson then begins (and proceeds for the duration of the show) to pick up his recording equipment and either tote it easily or hoist it laboriously depending on its size and weight all the way downstage toward the audience. Finding a desirable location, he sets down each one, unravels the cord, plugs it in, and thus begins the next segment of the story.
The story in question has two parallel characters: one, an old man named Thomas whose memory is fading. His wife Gertie encourages him to record all of his thoughts and memories before they’re lost, which he does on a single fall day in 1977. The second character is Trudy, a modern-day woman fatigued by the mundaneness of her life, whose story travels backward toward her birth, also in 1977. Kitson makes humorous mentions of the quotidian events of Trudy’s life, but they don’t add up to anything bigger. There’s no tension in her life, just boredom. One segment features Trudy’s feelings about yogurt. It’s “fine”, she concludes. Not good or bad, but fine. That expression, sadly, describes my feelings about Kitson’s script. The only anticipation in the story is for the moment when Trudy and Thomas’ worlds might intersect. They do but rather simply and without much consequence.
What impressed me far more than the story was Kitson’s physical work on that stage. The way he methodically organized the speakers and reels across the floor; the precise timing he displayed in switching between reels so that no lapse in storytelling occurred. His hard work was visible. He was creating something in real time. It reminded me of the Israeli production Nalaga’at – a work that explores life for deaf and blind individuals. In the show, the actors – all deaf and blind themselves – bake bread onstage while a voiceover narrates the hardships and poignancies of navigating the world tactically, rather than visually and aurally. The actors mix yeast and flour, knead the dough, and bake the bread in a working oven onstage. It is real and palpable and sensory. Kitson’s work here is quite different but, like Nalaga’at, it offers a new conduit for storytelling. Analog.ue is a live show and it isn’t a live show. It is a story and also the meticulous crafting of a story. I find that approach compelling and original. The only shortcoming was that Kitson’s form greatly eclipsed his content.
Photo credit: Pavel Antonov