October 11, 2018
Pitkin Grove sounds like the title to a television series, identifying a particular space without defining what happens in it, leaving only specific associations to be made. Beth Gill’s work, shown at the The Joyce Theater’s NY Quadrille and titled in such a way, unfolds like an hour-long title sequence to an episode that plays only in our heads.
As we take our seats, Kevin Boateng, in a candy red vestment, cautiously treads the stage, draped in squares of astroturf. He draws an invisible curtain, giving himself permission to wander more deeply from the stage’s four edges. Across additional actions of whipping arms overhead, jabbing shoulders repeatedly towards the ground, and testing surfaces before resting on them, Boateng could be anyone from caretaker to owner of the space, but never achieves a comfort that would express mere consumption.
Underneath the squares of turf lies Danielle Goldman, wearing a variety of pink fabrics. Excavated in the knick of time, she takes a preparatory breath into a plastic bag before aggressively clearing the stage of everything that had been nestling with her beneath the previous scene’s grassy topography. Primarily hoses, they are lucky to be so much as unraveled before Goldman flings them offstage, politely collected by stagehands. Perched atop a trashcan, she reveals her face to no one from under her stocking facemask to preciously mold thin black sheets, ultimately dropped, to her head, revising any object’s utility as sheer disposability.
Joyce Edwards is uniquely indifferent to objects in space. A towering, muscular figure, the sunshine of her yellow costume is countered with a guarded vocabulary, like a boxer on a tape, neurotically paused and resumed into light, rhythmic footwork and luxurious stretching. Should one of Goldman’s remnants lie along her path, Edwards, like a street cleaner, shuffles them offstage with the rest of the debris.
Left with a bare stage, Jennifer Lafferty collaborates with objects we cannot see, running with her trailing arms gripping an invisible sled behind her. She crabwalks backwards, trying not to crumble under the weight above her. At the end of an otherwise expository piece, Lafferty is the only one to echo motifs articulated by Boateng and Goldman, with no answer as to how these individuals connect.
Gill’s independent meddling, however, inevitably connects each body. Her removal of the astrotuf squares keeps Boateng at bay, and activates Goldman to pick up where Gill’s tossing left off. She derails Edwards, sitting her down as she removes the top of her gray suit and dunks herself in a trashcan of gray paint, the fan behind her drying her like hardening cement. When Edwards resumes, Gill crumbles slowly to the ground, lying at the edge of the space, providing a charged though inactive locus from which Lafferty’s solo spins.
Who is she? Neither her trail of gray paint nor her body is collected by stagehands. She doesn’t list herself as a performer, but does take credit alongside costume designer Beille Younkman for scenery. As Gill performs the role of choreographer, the set pieces take on choreographic motivation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews