No one told the SITI company about the housing crisis: Tyvek, 2x4s, and duct tape on hand, their “Under Construction” loudly proclaims that building and rebuilding (creating, really) is the essence of American character.
This Dance Theater Workshop collage piece (by the opensourcing Chuck Mee), then, is the theatrical equivalent of I. M. Pei’s landmark glass pyramid at the Louvre: a confrontational reckoning between past and present, one sure to get folks going and ruffle feathers. (“Strong Adult Content and Language” is a gross understatement.)
Per SITI.org, the show is “inspired by Norman Rockwell and contemporary installation artist Jason Rhoades,” but any explicit exploration of these diametrically opposed artists is avoided. Instead, we get alternating scenes of Americana and Avant-Garde: There are instructions on how to go on a date, then depictions of suicide, then a housewife tutorial, the a shocking standup routine. (And on and on.)
(That last segment, where one actress intercuts searing sexual commentary with terrifying audience member interrogations, redefines what it means to squirm in one’s seat. Sit house center to avoid disclosing your sexual history in front of 200 strangers.)
The TEAM, one of downtown’s most exciting companies, explored similar terrain in “Architecting” at PS 122 and Under the Radar several years ago. That piece, however, had a more explicit narrative bent, profiling gentrification in post-Katrina New Orleans and a heartbreaking Scarlet O’Hara beauty contest.
Both pieces, however, make a similarly optimistic statement about America and creativity, and become living proof of their theses: “I am American, therefore I create.” They are, and they did.