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The Medium

Marshall McLuhan put through the Anne Bogart ringer in a revival of the SITI Company production.

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Ellen Lauren, Gian-Murray Gianino, Will Bond (as Marshall McLuhan), Violeta Picayo and Stephen Duff Webber in a scene from SITI Company’s production of “The Medium” at the Fishman Space at BAM Fisher (Photo credit: Steven Molina Contreras)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

Who knew that Marshall McLuhan was such a nut?  The Medium, a dance-theater work conceived and directed by Anne Bogart puts McLuhan through her particular way of combining dance and words and the outcome was silly and brilliant at the same time.

First performed in 1993, The Medium was revived at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAM Fisher where five members of the experimental SITI Company were put through their manic paces attempting to explicate the McLuhan’s “medium is the message” philosophy in a series of pointed, surreal skits. Bogart updated the media references to include all the electronic/internet variations.

Stephen Duff Webber, Violeta Picayo and Ellen Lauren  in a scene from SITI Company’s production of “The Medium” at the Fishman Space at BAM Fisher (Photo credit: Steven Molina Contreras)

In a staid brown suit (witty, imaginative costumes by Gabriel Berry), Will Bond, speaking in a rat-tat-tat fashion, introduced himself as McLuhan and proceeded to behave in a ditzy, hyper manner, soon joined by Gian-Murray Gianino, Violeta Picayo, Ellen Lauren and Stephen Duff Webber who portrayed a slew of characters in a slew of situations meant to send up the superficiality of popular culture as communicated through different media—here, mostly TV.

The nimble ensemble quartet, guided by an ever more disconnected Bond, rapidly acted out a bizarre talk show, an over-the-top televangelist takeoff and even a silly cooking show, with the actors showing extraordinary verbal and athletic skills, wrapping their mouths and bodies around the avalanche of words and actions Bogart created for them, each moment impressively performed.

Ellen Lauren and Will Bond in a scene from SITI Company’s production of “The Medium” at the Fishman Space at BAM Fisher (Photo credit: Steven Molina Contreras)

It was difficult to figure out through all the cleverness and energetic and perspicacious performances whether Bogart and her minions were  communicating McLuhan’s ideas, showing off, or probably both.

Brian H Scott provided exacting lighting and scenery adapted from Neil Patel’s original:  A stage-wide arcade under which much action occurred plus tables, chair and many props.  Wigs were used profusely as was a mood altering soundscape designed by Darron L West.

Violeta Picayo and  Gian-Murray Gianino in a scene from SITI Company’s production of “The Medium” at  the Fishman Space at BAM Fisher (Photo credit: Steven Molina Contreras)

Bogart directed her handiwork with an eye for precision timing.

These performances of The Medium represent the swan song of the SITI Company.

The Medium (March 15 – 19, 2022)

The SITI Company

BAM Fisher, Fishman Space, 321 Ashland Place, in Brooklyn

For tickets, call 718-636-4100 or visit http://www.BAM.org

Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission

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Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (440 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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