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Theatre in Review: YOUARENOWHERE (3-Legged Dog/The Tank)

Andrew Schneider. Photo: Maria Baranova

This may be the shortest review I've ever written: Between what I comprehended of YOUARENOWHERE and what the producer has asked us not to reveal, there isn't much left. Andrew Schneider's jittery existentialist freak-out combines allusions to physics, the theory of relativity, twelve-step programs, relationships, concepts of identity, and God only knows what else. It is also quite possibly the first production I have ever seen in which the staging elements are often (intentionally) at war with the star.

There is a series of blackouts accompanied by the most invasive beep I've ever heard, with Schneider appearing out of the darkness as if by magic. Shirtless -- for reasons even he can't name -- his attempts at beginning the show are interrupted by a series of light cues -- warm white, cold white, and colors -- accompanied by sound effects that seemingly knock him to the ground. He persuasively lip-synchs to a slowed-down version of Ricky Nelson's "Lonesome Town." He inserts his head into an illuminated frame, in a manner that totally obscures his facial features. He hands a CD to an audience member and asks him to push, calling up a range of musical selections, from Franz Liszt's "Liebestraum No. 3" to Beyoncé's "Halo." And the words come -- in torrents, cataracts -- about all of the above subjects and much more.

Much of what Schneider says can only be caught on the fly, so rapidly does he speak and so scattered and fragmented is the text. An especially long and, I suspect, germane passage has to do with a train moving through the countryside, with a woman sitting inside and a man standing in a field watching it pass -- each of whom has a different perception of the sequence of events when two bolts of lightning hit the train. My best guess is that this entire sequence, starting from the beginning, is a kind of recreation of Schneider's stream of consciousness, an assertion of his personality or his on-stage persona.

Then....well, I can't tell you what happens except to say that it is enormous, one of the biggest coups de théâtre I've seen in years, and it radically reorients one's perspective on everything that has come before. Beyond that, all I can tell you is that YOUARENOWHERE is baffling, but not boring; that Andrew Schneider is a fearless and technically gifted performer (he kept going even with a nosebleed); that the technical/design aspects of the production are executed with a rare precision; and the entire experience is not easily forgotten.

The program lists any number of collaborators without specifying their contributions, although I gather that the video is by Daniel Jackson and the sound was designed by Bobby McElver. There's something inside this piece about consciousness, perception, and the construction of identity, but I couldn't really tease it out of the sometimes witty, sometimes assaultive sound-and-light show that contains it. Then again, I'm not sure Schneider and company want one to walk away with anything as concrete as a theme. Whatever they are up to, I am certain they know what they're doing and any apparent obfuscation is intended.

In any case, at the end of the performance, Schneider invites everyone to stay after, have a beer, and chat about the performance. My schedule didn't permit, but if you do see YOUARENOWHERE, I have a feeling you might be tempted to stay after and chat up its star. -- David Barbour

(24 March 2016)

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