Review: Catastrophic Theatre’s ‘They Do Not Move’ is a night of chaos, dancing and joy
“They do not move.” This is the stage direction at the end of both acts of Samuel Beckett’s absurdist touchstone “Waiting for Godot.” They are words of stasis, suggesting a disconnect between intention and action. In Beckett’s view, we are doomed to do it all again and expect different results.
“They Do Not Move” is also, not coincidentally, the name of Catastrophic Theatre’s latest avant-garde concoction, a night of dance and chatter and beauty pageantry and sci-fi and horror reenactment – in short, a night of chaos that ends with a stage littered with yellow rubber duckies in various sizes. Why? Well, why not? In Brian Jucha’s new work, the world is reduced to a performative Tower of Babel, often joyous and always ridiculous.
Unlike Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon, the characters in “They Do Not Move” have no trouble moving. Indeed, they can scarcely stop. An eight-actor ensemble – Noel Bowers, Amy Bruce, Tamarie Cooper, Dillon Dewitt, Karina Pal Montaño-Bowers, Gabriel Regojo, Miika Stewart and Kyle Sturdivant – dashes about the stage for the better part of 80 minutes, dancing on chairs, in between them and without them, debating domestic unease (Donald Trump is “Lex Luthor”), stopping for an extended stay inside a classic “Twilight Zone” episode, and yapping most of the way about everything and nothing. The cast, more often than not, functions as a single, rapidly mutating organism, which is ideal for this kind of shape-shifting show.
Musically, “They Do Not Move” runs the gamut, from rapper Too $hort’s booty-shaking jam “Blow the Whistle” to a Bach cello piece, performed live by Evan Leslie, to close out the show. “They Do Not Move” thrives on the chasm that often exists between form and content and the cloud of confusion that hovers, often by design, over contemporary life.
Two of the most effective bits tap into the connection between anxiety and pop culture, or the ways in which TV and film harness fear. One is a spirited and often funny stripping-down of the seminal “Twilight Zone” episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” in which an anonymous small-town community tears itself to pieces amid fears that an alien invasion is afoot.
The other is a delicious lip-syncing of the famous opening scene of the 1979 horror movie “When a Stranger Calls” (“We’ve traced the call. It’s coming from inside the house”), with the actual movie playing on a screen at the back of the stage. Yes, we are destroying each other. Yes, it is an inside job. But we can also have a little fun as the ship goes down.
How much of this flavorful madness you can take depends on your tolerance for this sort of thing. Parts of “They Do Not Move” play like private obsessions from someone else’s mind (which perhaps could be a description of all art). The pieces don’t always click together. But when they do, the results shine an absurd light on our mad world. Vladimir and Estragon would be right at home.