Yet again CalArts pushes forward the frontiers of theatre with an extraordinary, fascinating and labyrinthine work. To guide us through this maze of existential complexity I will confess to being more than usually dependent on the press release for providing the only way out.
A clever piece that explores the esoteric while being visually stimulating
IamI is a dance and movement performance that makes extensive use of sound and projections: a “serio-comedic multimedia dreamscape”. It places Heaven in outer space and revolves around an immortal being with a mirror for a face who leaps from his abode into the afterlife. He is joined by a woman who has drowned, and a man that is both a martyr and a miracle worker. Each of these characters attempts to help Iam become human, because he wants to end his reign as an immortal. The three meet resistance from the characters Atlas, Feri, and Welles as they seek to make meaning of a life after death in the Eversphere with new identities and apparent immortality.
If that sounds mesmerising there is more to come in the methodology of the work. According to it’s creator Shawn Brown it was devised using “The Destruction Method”. He explains that the philosophy of this new approach “is centred on the purity of Nothingness, and the writing technique is characterized by seemingly unrelated actions sporadically interrupting the natural flow of individual scenes.” On stage the actors “create friction between themselves, the movement, and the text”. This particular work “illuminates the complexities of death by unifying sacred themes, the animalistic nature of humanity, and the scientific perspectives of academia”.
IamI is performed by an ensemble of talented dancers who float and teeter through an ethereal cosmos. Extensions into space are contrasted with low-level writhing movements that morph with gentle fluidity. Identifying themselves as from another place, the scientists steps are visibly human, while Atlas treads heavily and strains under the weight of the Earth with knees bent. Each dancer’s style is distinctive, clearly identifiable and accentuated by costume.
The ambiguities inherent in IamI provide a wealth of opportunities for our minds to wander, to guess at meanings and to be confounded. It’s a clever piece that explores the esoteric while being visually stimulating and well-worth seeing.