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.
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.
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.
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