The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2011

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APR 2011 Issue

Wandering Along a Dreamscape

Like three estranged muses they emerge from the darkness. They move slowly, subtly and organically on a shallow wooden platform in the center of the stage. Their bodies, dressed in loose black shirts and leggings, rub against each other as they entangle themselves in a state of torpor. They appear to be under some sort of trance, seductive and otherworldly. There is a hint of determination in their eyes.

Greenberg, Shick. by Paula Court.
Greenberg, Shick. by Paula Court.

Marilyn Maywald, Jimena Paz and Maggie Thom inhabit a ghostly, domesticated landscape in Vicky Shick’s Not Entirely Herself, which premiered at The Kitchen in March. They engage in physically dysfunctional relationships, mysterious and often times unsettling. They wander, uninhibited, arms flouncing around in dreamlike rapture. The lights fade.

When the lights come back on, they look like mystical goddesses joining, and dispersing, in cloud-like formations. Paz puts her arms around Maywald; she gently assists her and whispers in her ear, while Thom twists and bends in rapid, upbeat successions, occasionally gazing blank-faced at us. Sometimes they caress each other and sometimes they ignore each other.Their facial expressions are for the most part neutral, but also break into subtle moments of song, girlish smiles, and mildly devious expressions. They could be bored teenagers, hippies or druggies, awkward lovers or foreigners.

…This was the middle

ground. Some women lounged on the clipped
grass, shadows and intelligence moving
lightly over their skin, compelled by
the trenchant discussion of sovereignty.
…The feminist sky split open.

Writes Lisa Robertson in her book-length poem, Debbie: An Epic. And poetry is precisely what Shick gives us: an elegant feminist mystery without resolution and without a need for one.

Even the objects on stage have an eerily animate presence. A tall white gown cut for two heads and two sets of arms looms in the corner. It is lit from behind by a single spotlight and conjures the presence of an ominous guardian angel, while a demure, sparkling curtain inhabits the opposite corner. Shick’s longtime collaborator, the visual artist Barbara Kilpatrick, created the hauntingly beautifully stage set, and costumes, which consist of a fabulous variety of skirts and dresses. Elise Kermani’s soundtrack, complete with bagpipes reminiscent of circus music, static buzzing, pots clinging, mellow drumming, and wind chimes, evokes a sort of freakish, abandoned house in the countryside. Credit, too, must be given to Chloë Z Brown’s dreamily atmospheric lighting.

For all of its evocative moments, stage props, and stunning opening scene, Not Entirely Herself meanders a bit in its aloofness. It is also in part due to the noticeable disconnect between the first and second sections. Both are poignant but somewhat jarring in juxtaposition.

The stage lights dim once again and the three women seem to flutter off the stage, only to be replaced by Schick and Neil Greenberg. Greenberg is perfect as a sort-of overgrown child in a cable knit sweater vest, and cargo khakis, while Shick radiates with confidence and beauty as a partner or close friend. The tone, however, is completely different from the first part. It’s more lighthearted, and Shick and Greenberg feel less like one amalgamated abstract being. Instead, Schick appears cheerful, but emotionally distant, oblivious to the seriously boyish Greenberg. The closing image of Schick with her back towards us and her arms lusciously snaking the air aside a light stand is a powerful one. The lights go out and we awake. 


Christine Hou

CHRISTINE HOU is a poet and arts writer living in Brooklyn, New York.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2011

All Issues