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Wayra: Fuerza Bruta

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

Photo by Maria Aramburu

The rat race is looking pretty well run at Wayra, the new spectacular from the creators of De La Guarda and Fuerza Bruta that just opened at the Daryl Roth Theatre. It's not just that the story of this 85-minute, slam-bang, ear-piercing spectacular re-envisions the apocalypse as a metaphor for our overworked age. But that if you've been following this series for years, this latest chapter is going to seem, shall we say, more than a little familiar.

There may be a few differences in content between Wayra and Fuerza Bruta, which opened in 2007, but good luck detecting them under most circumstances. Most of the most memorable displays during this practically wordless outing have a crisply recycled sheen: a businessman walking on an eternal treadmill as walls literally break into pieces in front of him, blinding flurries of confetti blown about by wind machines, a group of nymphs cavorting in a stage-spanning transparent pool of water that descends from the ceiling, plenty of toying with gravity and safety as performers run across fabric "walls" that appear out of nowhere or spin beneath their ever-leaping feet.

The only significant element that registered as new, at least to my eye, in creator Diqui James's concoction was a climactic scene in which two performers descended on wires from the flimsy, tarp-like cage that at that moment was functioning as the ceiling (and resembled a sewer), grabbed one audience member each, and escorted them back up the "world above" with them where they pawed around for a minute or two. And certainly there was something vicariously thrilling—okay, terrifying—about this that made a deep impression when most of the been-there-done-that proceedings were unable to.

But what was clearer this time than before, for whatever reason, was the "story" that the action presented, however obliquely. The businessman struggles against an existence that's forever trying to break him down, imagines a universe where such feelings are given physical form (alternately as events as diverse as an oppressive rave or those endless chases around the wall), then focuses on a finding a woman to love, only to risk losing her before discovering, thanks to a late cardboard-box-trashing sequence, that office life just isn't worth it. And when he pops down into that "sewer" later, he's had an apotheosis and we're still rats beneath his feet.

Or something. Trying to divine much meaning from this overloud, English-free spectacle, even as punctuated with those arresting effects and live, subway-tunnel-tribe music (Gaby Kerpel is the composer), is rather beside the point. You're supposed to lose yourself in the wonder and maybe ponder corporate cynicism while hopefully not thinking about how ruthlessly manufactured it all feels.

That's easy enough, I suppose, and if you've never seen a show of this style before, it's simpler still; Wayra does have an immediacy and vibrancy that something like Cirque du Soleil conspicuously lacks. This one trades on resilience rather than overt artistry, which delivers plenty of visceral entertainment, if without eliciting the same kind of gasps and haunting appreciation of the magical capabilities of the human body. Here, the machine is the thing, and it never stops running. It only slows down enough to make us wonder for an instant what will happen if we do, before accelerating again and leaving us as drenched, bewildered, and, on some level, impressed.

S2BN Entertainment and OZONO Productions present
Wayra: Fuerza Bruta
Daryl Roth Theatre, 101 East 15th Street at 20 Union Square East, between 15th and 16th Streets
Running Time: 80 minutes with no intermission
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: Telecharge

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