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This hour-plus of insidious, challenging weirdness lands its punch squarely in the gut.

Theater Review (NYC Off-Broadway): ‘Who Left This Fork Here’ by Daniel Fish

Who Left This Fork Here
Tina Benko and Judith Roberts in Daniel Fish’s “Who Left This Fork Here” at Baryshnikov Arts Center on Tuesday night, December 8, 2015. Credit: Hiroyuki Ito
One of the strangest and most impactful pieces of stage work I’ve seen in some time is in the midst of a mere sliver of a run – just four days – at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Who Left This Fork Here is helmed by Daniel Fish, with video, music and sound by Jim Findlay. But no one exactly “wrote” this tense, aggressive, dialogue-free meditation on aging and the passage of time.

With thematic inspiration from Chekhov’s The Three Sisters and conceptual influence from performance art, the piece dissects the mind – memories, emotions, joys, and especially frustrations – of a woman reflecting on her life from the vantage point of old age.

One younger self (Tina Benko) obsessively positions and repositions a floor to stand on, and eventually bursts forth in a birthday celebration worthy of Karen Finley. Another (Auden Thornton) walks and then runs back and forth, back and forth to exhaustion, getting nowhere.

Meanwhile her present-day self (Judith Roberts) sits on a stool mutely passing through a world of emotions, her face projected in giant close-up on a movie-theater-sized screen. Can we also see Chekhov’s Olga, Marina, and Irina in the motions and frustrations of the three characters and the imagery of their travails? In an abstract sense, sure. But Roberts’s beautiful, looming face, lined with age, cares, and the abrasions of memory, contains multitudes; her silent character subsumes all we see and hear.

Findlay’s soundscapes and music grow slowly, from the quiet ticking of a clock to a frenetic cacophony of bangs, squeaks, and synthesizer howls, a crescendo of terrible tension, which finally releases when our heroine breaks through her frustration in a comically dramatic birthday bash.

But she gets no lasting catharsis. Long after the audience has gotten its gratification, she keeps preening, desperate for applause however awkwardly bestowed. Her and our discomfort increases as the camera follows her down into a figurative id state. I found myself literally grinding my teeth.

Which isn’t a usual way to recommend a show. But this hour-plus of insidious, challenging weirdness lands its punch squarely in the gut. It runs through December 12. Tickets are availalbe online or call 866-811-4111.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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