BY TAMMY SCILEPPI
The mere thought of hurting an animal makes most people cringe in horror.
But if you ask local playwrights/performers Tana Sirois and Maria Swisher, they’ll tell you that “Crushing Baby Animals” is what they’re into because that happens to be the weirdo, disturbing title of their new hellish, alternate reality play now showing at the Plaxall Gallery (5-25 46th Ave.) in LIC through July 21.
See it if you dare!
Sirois is no stranger to artistic, mind-bending physical theater that takes audiences to other-worldly dimensions. Her previous work shown at Plaxall in 2017, was another immersive creation called “Garden of Earthly Delights” – also presented by Dirt [contained] Theatre Company and Long Island City Artists Inc. (LIC-A) – of which she is performing arts director.
“Maria and I realized a little over a year ago that we have both been having the same recurring nightmare since childhood. In the dream, we are trying to save a bunch of rapidly reproducing baby animals from a tornado, but the harder we try to save them, the more rapidly we drop them, step on them, crush them all … it’s really awful!” Sirois recalled.
“The shared experience of this dream led us to think about synchronicity and connectivity, and we decided the dream was a great inciting incident for our next play. In ‘Crushing Baby Animals,’ the characters Tana and Maria (versions of us), share a dream that opens up a cosmic wormhole and sucks them into another dimension where they come face to face with their antagonistic doppelgängers.”
Blending physical theater, multimedia, improvisation and a healthy dose of humor in a unique artistic setting, the play reflects both creators’ real shared experience as women making theater in New York City, and the scary discovery of what that shared nightmare could possibly mean.
So, why should folks take in this mind-blowing performance?
“The show is consistently pulling viewers quite far into a specific style, and then drastically altering the genre (as well as the location of the action), which makes for a lively, immersive experience. It blends the stark reality of improvised scenes with the fantasy of multimedia, incorporating physical theater, satire and scripted text,” Swisher explained.
The audience will be asked to move to different playing spaces within the gallery. They may be fed cookies, handed props or briefly used as characters in the show, which has some strong language and adult content, but nothing too racy. Expect a smattering of quantum physics, along with cool techno music and lively musical theater.
Juxtaposed against an art exhibition titled “Welcome to The Multiverse” that is themed to the play, the show was also influenced by the work, once it was up on the walls, creating an interesting interdisciplinary dialogue, according to Swisher. (On view at Plaxall through July 21. Gallery hours: Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.).
“Through a sci-fi theatrical device, we explore how to live, make art, and not go crazy in this mad world. It’s challenging to feel sane and/or connected to one another right now; we are trying to approach these topics with bravery, vulnerability and humor, baring our souls and taming our egos,” both women noted.
Swisher and Sirois first began collaborating in 2008 during their university training at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in England.
“We hope this production inspires audiences to stay with the trouble of life when things get tough, to learn to trust in each other, and most importantly, to embrace a sense of play,” Sirois added.
After the Plaxall run (Wednesdays and Fridays – Sundays at 8 p.m.; no Thursday performances), “Crushing Baby Animals” will move to the IRT Theatre in Greenwich Village from Aug. 6 to 9, at 8 p.m. This piece was specifically created for Plaxall’s multi-space, waterfront, 12,000-square-foot warehouse venue, so the transfer means the show will be partly altered, bringing it to an intimate, 30-seat, single-venue theater.
Tickets for $25 are available for both venues at www.dirtcontained.com or https://www.eventbrite.com/e/crushing-baby-animals-tickets-62773431022.
This event is made possible (in part) by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.