"You Belong to Me: Death of Nations: Part V"

scene from Act II: Heimwehen of "You Belong To Me"

The latest, fifth installment of International WOW Company's ambitious, multi-year multi-national epic theatrical cycle, "Death of Nations", is now playing at Performance Space 122.

"You Belong To Me: Death of Nations: Part V" is the full title of the current manifestation, a collaboration between Josh Fox and Frank Raddatz, former dramaturg to Heiner Müller. The company's site describes the evening as

a whirlwind journey of territorial obsession. The play delves into the last days of three wars, spanning three centuries. Moving from a southern Plantation at the end of the Civil War to the end of the Nazi Holocaust, to the so-called “end of major combat operations” in Baghdad, we follow a single multi-ethnic family through several generations. Filled with brutal laughs and tragic irony, You Belong To Me is an intensely physical and musical rollercoaster ride of love, betrayal and murder throughout the ages.
While I did not feel entirely engaged in or provoked by the plantation mayhem in the first act [it may have been an off night], I thought that some of the same conquest/liberation/seduction ironies of the second (Germany, 1945) act were more successful. Then within minutes of the opening of the third, or contemporary Landstuhl hospital segment, I knew that I was unlikely to leave that room as the same person who had entered it, surely and dimly echoing the experience of the real patients, families and staff whose lives the company imagined so sensitively. It was an awesome moment in theatre, and if some in the audience in this small East Village space missed it, I blame American television, not the creators and performers.

Don't be discouraged by the earliest part of the evening; do not leave. I won't give anything away here, but the beauty, horror, "humor" [only implied, but drawing, shockingly, big guffaws from the audience] and above all the unspeakable sadness of the final half hour or so reminded me of the perfection attainable by the greatest art of any form.

At the same time, the fact that this piece can even be imagined, and that it can actually mean something to an audience of any political sensibility, is a truly shocking indictment of any number of nations - and an augury of their deaths.

[image from International WOW Company]

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Published on January 12, 2007 3:25 PM.

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