Past Reviews

Off Broadway Reviews

All That Dies And Rises

Theatre Review by Howard Miller

Camber Donahoe, Maury Miller, Emily Viancourt, Rachel Kodweis, and Christopher Cancel-Pomales.
Photo by Jill Steinberg.
Last year, director James Rutherford and his company, M-34, brought us a compelling production called The Importance of Being Ernest Hemingway, a mashup of the writings of Oscar Wilde and Hemingway that was less a straightforward play than a theatrical form of abstract expressionist art that found a way to merge intellectual ideas with emotional content. Now they are back with a new work, co-produced with Cloud of Fools, called All That Dies And Rises. And, if anything, it is even more abstract and expressionistic, though once again it carries an emotional charge.

Well-read audience members might recognize excerpts from any of the 10 authors whose published works provide the text. Among these are Charles Bukowski, writing about a father-son relationship ("he hinted at times that I was a bastard and I told him to listen to Brahms"), and Grace Paley, who, in one of her short stories, speaks of a writer whose father presses her to create more plot-driven tales, like those of Maupassant or Chekhov.

A plot-driven tale, the hour-long All That Dies And Rises, at the IATA Theater, is not. Rather, it is a performance piece that combines the textual excerpts with choral singing (music by David Skeist), background sounds designed by Michael Costagliola and Alexander Clifford, and the sometimes playful but often tension-filled and very physical choreography of Laura Butler Rivera, all performed within the white box stage area by a cast dressed in Olga Mill's simple two-piece costumes (black on one side, white on the other).

In addition to evoking an overall feeling of tension among the players, All That Dies And Rises incorporates an intriguing element of metatheater by calling attention to itself by quoting from Gertrude Stein ("your emotional time as an audience is not the same as the emotional time of the play"), and—in one particularly effective scene—by turning the telling of the Grace Paley story into a cozy reading, as members of the cast hurriedly set up a living room, complete with chair and footstool, rug, lamp, a book, and a group of listeners hunkered on the floor around the reader.

It is interesting to note that the director worked as assistant to Peter Brook on his production of The Valley of Astonishment, both in Paris and more recently with the Theatre for a New Audience at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Mr. Brook's influence can clearly be seen, but Mr. Rutherford is moving even more deeply into the abstract to get at the essence of meaning. Even when that meaning is sometimes elusive, this is excitingly original experimental work he is engaged in, and it is fascinating to watch as it unfolds. It may be because of the level of imaginative creativity that has gone into developing this piece that he has been able to attract such a strong cast of seven highly talented performers: Christopher Cancel-Pomales, Camber Donahoe, Jon Froehlich, Rachel Kodweis, Maury Miller, Casey Robinson, and Emily Viancourt.

All That Dies And Rises
Through December 21
IATI Theater, 64 East Fourth Street
Tickets and current Performance Schedule: (866) 811-4111