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FringeNYC: 'Crave' [Review]

Sarah Kane’s difficult text comes to life in this innovative multimedia performance.

Crave is certainly not Sarah Kane's most famous play--that's a title usually reserved for either the overwhelmingly violent Blasted or the shocking suicide note of a play 4.48 Psychosis--but it is arguably the most complex and difficult to perform. Consisting of no set or stage directions and with the four speakers identified only by a letter (A, B, C or M), it is a play you could do anything with. Gregory Kowalski and company have in this version created a unique multimedia experience that brings the text to life without the performers speaking a word out loud.

Live Media Magic

This show is more a piece of performance art than it is a play, but that doesn't mean it isn't just as engaging and as theatrical. To accompany the recorded text of the play, two actors (Kowalski and Dei Khrist) use their bodies, a few props such as a mask and flashlights and live video technology to project beautiful, surreal images onto the screen at the back of the stage. You as the audience get to watch both the human being manipulating the items and the resulting video, which colors, distorts and emphasizes different elements to create a unique artistic compilation on the screen.

While the image manipulations begin simply, with just one performer passing a light over a mask or the second performer's body, they grow ever more elaborate as the piece goes on, involving thrown and rotating elements and complex, partially illuminated backdrops. This performance answers a fascinating question about the intersection of theater and technology in the modern age: how do you create a film that is still different every time it is seen?

Picking Up Pieces of the Story

As for the actual story, it is very difficult to determine plot or characters, though certain themes common to Kane's work can be traced throughout: sexual awakening and abuse, depression, human relationships and pregnancy. Still, the overall sense of the play can still be discerned, far more than if you were to try to just read the play through without the full experience of this piece. Crave poses complicated questions about being human that have no real answers, but that is the value of Sarah Kane's writing.

Sarah Kane is definitely an acquired taste, but this piece is definitely worth seeing if you're interested in experimental, nonlinear writing or the intersection of theater and film technology. And while, as with poetry, you will never be able to catch or recall the entire play, certain lines will stick with you long after it's over. Machine 5 Theatre Works has created a visually stunning piece that is a thrill to watch, and a worthy accompaniment to a difficult play.

Crave plays as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the Steve & Marie Sgouros Theatre at 115 MacDougal Street. Remaining performances are on August 22 at 9:15pm and the 23rd at 5:15pm.

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