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Ondadurto Teatro's 'Terramia' offers up a bleak look at humanity through the eyes of an android

by Bonnie Rosenstock
December 21, 2018
Ellen Stewart Theatre at La MaMa E.T.C.
66 East 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 254-6468
lamama.org
Rome-based Ondadurto Teatro made its U.S. debut at La MaMa in the East Village (December 13-16) with “Terramia” (“My Land”), a provocative multimedia art spectacle that captured the dark side of humanity as seen through the eyes of an android. Ondadurto translates to “shockwave” in English, and indeed if some aspects of human life can shock and scare an android, who is being schooled in what it means to be “human,” then where does that leave the rest of us? And here we thought we only had to worry about what extraterrestrials would think if they landed here.

This remarkable original work was designed by Marco Paciotti and Lorenzo Pasquali, who co-founded the company in 2005. Inspired by Physical Theatre, the Nouveau Cirque and Gesture Theatre, the production makes superb use of integrating text, movement, music (original and recognizable) video projections, split screens, machinery, strobes, large moving platforms on wheels that transform into many configurations and a series of vignettes of contemporary situations that engage and frequently enrage.

The production opens with split screen projections of heads, faces bandaged, modern-day life, narration of chilling current events. High up on a wheeled platform, a scientist, reminiscent of Dr. Frankenstein, activates a female android, with accompanying wires and blinking lights emanating from their helmet-like head gear. What ensues is bittersweet, tragicomic, mayhem and even murder as the nine dancers/actors, often appearing with bandaged heads and faces, open slits for their eyes, take us through life’s travails in all its myriad forms.

With the wooden structure upright, we are voyeurs, watching a woman in exercise gear adhering to a recording of a diet/exercise regime in her room. A performer holds a plate of hamburgers just out of her reach, as she glumly settles for the tasteless healthy food. After four days, she weighs herself and laughs.

A soldier on a small round wooden balance is rolled dizzily around the stage while he simultaneously rotates on the device. Later, there is a deft dance sequence where the women wear short blue plastic dresses and the men wear matching blue plastic tops. In another scene, an average Joe in a red jacket, cap and glasses, is listening to a narrative on how to be popular, as he performs a series of activities: exercising, eating, reading, drinking, going to the toilet. Like the exercising woman, he apparently didn’t succeed; he stands on a chair with a noose around his neck, while a split screen shows the same.

The scientist demonstrates different kinds of kissing to the confusion of the newly awakened android. The lesson continues with a marvelous voiceover recitation of the differences between men and women through the colors pink and blue: pink, be a lady, blue be a man; women make up, men stay strong, etc. A following segment shows two men texting each other, with voiceovers of their exchange. One of the men transforms into a beautiful woman, then meets the man in his cubicle. When the man discovers that she is not a naturally born woman, he brutally sodomizes her. The screen flashes with statistics: over 2,000 deaths due to transphobia, with the names of the victims and dates of the occurrences. The next scene turns to heterosexual domestic bliss: a brute of a husband and a battered wife, who tries to leave. When that doesn’t work out, she poisons him. Cut to video of women attending a pre-marriage counseling session on how to take care of their man after marriage. There’s an irreverent scene of marital bliss, which involves the android as part of the mix. A scene about babies. Satan appears in chains, growls, gives birth, baby cries.

Finally, the Pope, a strongman dressed in military garb and a garishly dressed woman sit high up on a platform and shoot at the dancers below. The scurrying dancers, carrying suitcases, have targets on their backs reminiscent of a video game. The trio laughs as the dancers fall and die. The end of the show, but not quite. So as not to leave us totally dejected from a glut of uncomfortable truths, a video segues to portraits of people of all races, ethnicities, as we are told we must swim together or drown together. After the performance we just witnessed, the jury is still out as to what end of the pool we will end up in.
Ondadurto Teatro in “Terramia”.

Ondadurto Teatro in “Terramia”.

Photo © & courtesy of Samantha Zucchi


Ondadurto Teatro in “Terramia”.

Ondadurto Teatro in “Terramia”.

Photo © & courtesy of Samantha Zucchi


Ondadurto Teatro in “Terramia”.

Ondadurto Teatro in “Terramia”.

Photo © & courtesy of Samantha Zucchi

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