Cupola Bobber Opens PS122

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Cupola Bobber, photo by Rachel Roberts

Last night took us to P.S.122 for the season opener, Chicago’s Cupola Bobber in Way Out West, The Sea Whispered Me. It was a fitting start to what is, I think, P.S.122’s 30th season, and Vallejo Gantner’s fifth as artistic director.

Changes abound – no more programs, brochures or postcards as the venue makes a gesture toward going green. New windows, new scaffolding, video monitors in the halls, new faces and new audiences. All of this in preparation for a major capital project that will have surprising ramifications for longtime fans of the space in the upcoming years. And despite all the change, at the same time there is an abiding familiarity.

Cupola Bobber is Stephen Fiehn and Tyler B. Myers, a pair of Art Institute of Chicago grads and their aesthetic reflects the Radiohole genre of live art performance – scratchy 78 rpm records on a hand-cranked victrola, lo-tech and action-based, oblique and dryly humorous. This meditation on the sea and it discontents is both engaging and familiar. The whimsy of sand castles made and destroyed from a suitcase full of sand, an ocean and waves from tarpaulins and twine, a tie that stands straight up as if the wearer were plummeting down, a mountain inverted with a man enclosed like a slacker Beckett character – Way Out West is a dry, quietly humorous visit to new territory in a trusty, familiar vessel. My favorite moment of the show was probably unintentional yet, to me, endearingly human. As the two actors stood there, the sound of the ocean playing, they seemed to be lost when one said, quietly, to the sound man, “Nick, could you start the CD?” That is just so P.S.122 – and so Cupola Bobber – high concept and human all at the same time.

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