When you walk out of “Night and Day,” you’re going to be asking yourself, “What the Fuck did I just watch?”
But the real question is whether or not that’s a good thing.
The good: it’s good to be challenged. It’s good to uncomfortable and accosted by art, and by extension, life.
The bad is that it can also be pretentious bullshit.
“Night and Day” can be colorlessly described as “dance theatre.” This play is about 95 percent dance and 5 percent theatre — or, if you prefer, “talking.” For the full 80 minutes or so of the first act, you’re bombarded with what boils down to “weirdass shit.”
You’re treating to a lounge singer summarizing around five interrelated Greek myths, backed by people filed in an orgasm wall, then to logs being removed from briefcases and smacked lackadaisically with axes, to people talking about eating, then a short visit to Silent Hill, with a Deformed Diaper Dance and a Lightbulb Woman, then off to a naked eating orgy, then to demonic war stories and a suited man talking about human history, then a Cello-backed Bird Sockhead dance, then a man half-murdered in a wine trench, to people falling down to a song with the lyrics “falling down”, to a woman in spider-heart-cage wheeled through more talking about Greeks, to sky booze descending from the ceiling only to be drank and spat violently like an alcoholic Sea World which, of course, turns into white people meticulously moshing, to men stomping chairs accompanied by the silliest band in the world, Ramstein, and then, without question, a man in bondage gear cavorting about while singing “O Fortuna” in a shrill falsetto.
It was actually more fun writing down these quick descriptions of everything as a means to remember it all. There is so much of it that while it can be engrossing, sometimes annoying ideas and images, much of it evaporates from my short-term memory upon the show’s completion.
It’s like the run-on sentence of a junkie describing a fever dream. A little of this sort of theatre goes a long way, but here it’s just too damn much stimulation: too many ideas and images, all at a lightning-fast pace. But there is no time to catch your breath, to digest or make connections, of which there are desperately few. For the most part, it seems overindulgent.
The second act is considerably more coherent, presenting a strong visual theme of a changing monochromic light that engulfs the stage, arranged with motifs of a bouquet of pastoral kindness.
There is a remarkable specificity being created here: the chorus cast of sixteen actors zoom on and off stage by the second, packing the space with many simultaneous actions and intentions. What are our monkey brains and forward-facing binocular vision intended to focus on? Beyond the simple idea of overstimulation, there is the simple question of “Why?” If there is such a titanic effort of choreography and intensity, why do something so abstract? The answer, it seems, as it often is with art like this, is “because we can.”
It is difficult to even really critique art so obtuse. It’s bodily movement by means of abstracted emotion and images. It’s impossible to say something was “bad” or “wrong,” since it seems every possible thing is up for grabs to be used or performed. Every possible “failure,” from an actor’s performance to malfunctioning technical design and multimedia might simply be “part of the show,” which can be entirely meta in an interesting way, or frustrating and without consequence or responsibility for itself.
With that in mind, it is nearly impossible to say whether it is “good” or not. Ultimately, I’d rather art like this existed rather than it didn’t. While it would be amusing if the lawless artsy entropy of the first act was suddenly followed up by a second act of something like some straight-and-clean Neil Simon, “Night and Day” is a testament to the exploration of boundaries and a rebellion against limitation.
And if that’s really all that’s going on here, then, bravo, “Night and Day”. “Fuck the man”, indeed.
Night and Day
by Charles L. Mee
Directed by Bill Walters
UNM’s Rodey Theatre
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m.
$15 General, $12 Faculty and Seniors, $10 Staff and Students
For More Information:
(505)925-5858 or visit