Over Nine Waves
- by Eby Tim Barsky
review by Lisa Drostova in the East Bay Express
(June 4, 2003)
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- Why Theater Perseveres Three new works give the lie to the notion
that it's a moribund medium. BY LISA DROSTOVA
- These rumors of theater's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Besides
its inimitable physical immediacy, theater endures as an expressive medium
in part because its components are so versatile and potentially beguiling.
From the way a play is envisioned by a director, to the cut of the costumes
and the choice of music, there are so many facets to be played with and
enjoyed by those on both sides of the lights. One of those elements --
the rhythms of human speech -- is currently being explored in three new
works that give the lie to the idea of theater as a moribund medium.
- Storyteller Tim Barsky's new collection of pieces, on the other hand,
which premiered at Berkeley's intimate Epic Arts performance space and
moves over to the Exit in San Francisco this month, is anything but bland.
Traditional storytelling does something different with rhythm, ideally
making even the most mundane story sing with mystery. Barsky is here to
prove it with Over Nine Waves, which fuses ancient storytelling techniques
with contemporary issues, hip-hop, and unusual sounds. Barsky, who recently
did the music for Shotgun's Oedipus Rex, is back on familiar ground with
a selection of old and new stories backed up by the surprising and exotic
combination of cello, hand drum, bass guitar, flute, and beatbox. It doesn't
sound like it's going to work, phrased that way, but it totally does; the
end result is lush, tender, and haunting.
- Barsky brings four pieces: a short, character-laden traditional West
African Anansi the Spider story, two tales of social activism, and finally
the complex 2,100-year-old Irish love story of Midr and Eideen. He manages
a seamless blending of sources and sounds which somehow retain a feeling
of antiquity while taking place in subways and cities. Barsky's lions carry
pagers and his bees drink soy lattes; an eleven-year-old neighbor turns
briefly into a cop-eating demon and a handsome prince rides by his beloved
on horseback as she heads to the Laundromat.
- All of the musicians working with Barsky do exemplary, subtle work,
but one stands out for sheer bravura. Process, who quietly plays along
during the first three stories, warms up the crowd after intermission with
a description-defying display of beatbox talent, from replicating Rob Bass'
"It Takes Two" and classic Salt 'n' Pepa to dropping drum and
bass breaks, which should be physically impossible. Barsky also beatboxes
-- into his flute -- to startling effect, while cellist Jess Ivry and bassist/percussionist
Shree Shyam lay down smooth, evocative melodies.
- Sliding effortlessly from a group of bystanders who end up in jail
in the course of monitoring police activity ("You went out for the
crack dealers and came back with four white activists?" one cop asks
disbelievingly of another) and a kindergarten teacher caught up in the
Seattle WTO protests to a story of "the love you don't dream of as
an adult," replete with blood magicians, curses, and women turning
into butterflies, Barsky's Over Nine Waves is not only a new force in theater,
but sophisticated, impassioned storytelling at its best.
- eastbayexpress.com | originally published: June 4, 2003
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