"Click Now for Additional Happiness" : A Review of Richard Foreman's "Wake Up, Mr. Sleepy! Your Unconscious Mind is Dead!" By Elias Sapiroe

February 19, 2007



"The invention of the airplane (was) a mortal blow to the unconscious."


So we are repeatedly reminded in this aviation-themed installment of Richard Foreman's whimsical assault.


Well kiddies...


If the unconscious is in fact dead, Mr. Foreman, the wise old curmudgeon in the clock tower of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater at St. Mark's Church, has come to blow the breath of life back into it!


In his second go-round with his controversial medium du moment, the motion picture (last year's "Zomboid" was Foreman's first foray into the forbidden field), Foreman has Frankenstein-ed together a Jungian wake-up call of epic proportions. "Are there any young children in the audience, tonight?", booms the voice of our hypnotic host.


For the sake of London Spears' hopelessly doomed Generation Z², let's bloody-well hope so!


The set, encompassing close to half of the theater's humble square footage -- and then partially extending further still into the seating section itself, is a mind-bending blend of newspaper-covered walls, slender black flower-stuffed vases, plastic white doves, a boxing ring, and an array of airborne mini-planes, highlighted by the stage's centerpiece - a large, brown action-aircraft, with spinning propellers and all, crammed with a bevy of saucer-eyed baby dolls. All this is mixed in with Foreman's trademark alphabet soup, a barrage of seemingly randomized letters filling out the gaps in the visual clutter.


"Can I buy a vowel?", inquires my vaguely disorientated companion, as we get cozy in our none-too-cozy seats.


The players, consisting primarily of a foursome of red, white and black-clad young luminaries of the unconscious, awkwardly traverse the dreamlike playground without ever breaking their hauntingly stone-blank gazes. As is customary in a Foreman production, the actors don't so much "pander to the audience, trying to manipulate them" (Foreman's own words), but rather exist as a part of the greater work -- a sort of mad German surrealist painting sprung to life.


The four do a fair share of running around, pointing things out, and feigning death with the utmost grace, as well as bringing in fun, new props such as sets of giant, red scissors and powder-blue, Klan-like hoods into the soup.


A fifth player, decked out in a svelte, WWII-era aviator outfit, serves as the only character that gives off the tiniest hint of life on earth as we know it. He pops in and out of the fray, stumbling uncertainly, like a disjointed ghost caught inside of some nightmarish purgatory.


The two large video screens showcase an actual gang of insane asylum residents, shot in a fully-operational mad house in Lisbon, Portugal. The inmates convey a chilling parallel to the live action, clawing layers of newspaper from their faces, repeating various Foremaniacal wisdoms, and often simply staring sternly into the camera.


The film portion of the production was shot as part of the "Bridge Project", an international art initiative founded by Foreman three years ago together with his long time collaborator Sophie Haviland.


"This evening's performance is the most accurate copy I am able to make, of a strange theatrical event I viewed approximately one year ago... when, I was forcibly seized and transported by a flying saucer to the alien planet Ax-e-tron."


So proclaim the program notes of Mr. Foreman's latest piece of theatrical mind fuck. Well, as it turns out, Ax-e-tron (not to be confused with Axetberg, New Jersey), apparently has an extraordinarily like-minded aesthetic and point of view to its unwilling abductee. And, it's a good thing too, because this latest assault on technological advancement and the "Information Age" is one for the ages.


If the invention of the airplane was a mortal blow to the unconscious, than the invention of "Wake Up, Mr. Sleepy!" aims a mortal blow to that wily lil' invention.


Take that, airplane!



      "Wake Up Mr. Sleepy! Your Unconscious Mind Is Dead!"

      By Richard Foreman

      Ontological Theater

      131 East 10th Street, NY, NY


      Now through April 1