Saturday, August 12, 2006

I saw the new MIRANDA JULY... last night at the Steve Allen Theater.


Miranda was clear to state that the show is a "performance-in-progress."

As a fan of her previous work, which obviously includes her feature from last year ("Me and You and Everyone We Know"), I was excited to see this show.

Without giving too much away--because it is a show which should be experienced, and because I imagine it will develop quite a bit in the next year--I will tell you a bit about it.

The Steve Allen is a small theater--97 seats, I believe--and it was filled to capacity. Miranda walked on stage wearing a simple black outfit, made a few statements about the development process of the show, and then began asking for volunteers from the audience:

--"Couples who've been together for a long time."

--"A man who fell in love recently."

--"A woman the same height and build as Miranda."

Other volunteers would be taken during the rest of the night, and the show relied on them playing numerous parts. The show was heavy on video projection (both prerecorded and live) and audience participation--which took the form of everything from foot stomping, speaking in unison, to holding lighters in the air to answer pointed questions.

The show was ostensibly the story of Fiona and Donnie, a couple that had been together for years, but who would "only spend three more nights together."

Like "Me and You and Everyone We Know," this show dealt with very similar themes: the quality of love and intimacy in an age of alienation, faith, tiny moments of grace lodged in the mundane, childlike mystery and its slow decay as we become adults (or, in Miranda's case, the ability of that same mystery to thrive and fuel her work), and really, at its core, I felt like the show, while dealing with a number of issues, was asking one central question:

How can we learn to love and trust another person that is just as infinitely fallible and fragile as ourselves?

While the show seems to still be finding its size and shape (it was the first time it had been performed for an audience!), there was more than enough humor, humanity, and a few moments that dared to aim for that ephemeral thing James Joyce wrote about, those tiny moments of transcendence, those "epiphanies."

It was those startling, glimmering moments during the show--when a woman goes through the simple motions of opening curtains, when a child dances and everything becomes slow-motion, when a couple's story of meeting and falling in love is told twice during the same show (the second time having a completely different context, and therefore, meaning), and when a room full of strangers in a darkened room are asked if they've "lost a parent," or if "everything is going to be okay"--that I felt Miranda July was making a statement about our quality of life, or perhaps it was a demand for us to all take inventory of the quality of love in our lives.

When the house lights came up at the end of the show, everyone seemed surprised that the show had ended so abruptly, but upon later reflection it made perfect sense: some things end not with a declaration, but rather, a heartfelt question that begs no immediate answer.