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ENDS TONIGHT: Knee Plays – ‘The Cobweb’ by Lucia Treasure and ‘They Were the Ocean’ by Evan Moritz

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Lucia Treasure. Photo courtesy of Annex Theater.

The Cobweb

“I’m really scared of forgetting things”

When I was four or five years old, my brother climbed me up to a high branch in the apple tree in our back yard. Then he left me there. A while later, a family member heard my small pleading cry, “Help! Help the girl!” and rescued me. The thing is, neither my brother nor I remember this event. At all. We’ve probably heard the story 100 times over the years – so often that I’ve developed a first-person mental image of a tiny version of me clinging to the rough bark – but we have no independent recollection of it. Honestly, it does sound kinda like something my brother might have done back then. But he and I are skeptical; how could both of us have forgotten something that caused so much hullaballo?

Can memory be trusted? Where do false memories come from? Do you have any? How would you know? These types of questions are brought to mind in Lucia Treasure’s The Cobweb, playing this weekend only at Baltimore Annex Theater (“Annex”).

Annex Company Member Lucia Treasure has been conducting interviews for over five years. She has recorded the voices of her subjects – men, women, and children covering a wide age range – and is using segments of those raw recordings as the heart of this show. Treasure has assembled an impressive cast for this project – Autumn Breaud, Scott Burke, Dave Iden, Martin Kasey, Molly Margulies, Lucia Treasure, Trevor Wilhelms – each of whom channeled an interviewee. The ensemble was literally tied together; long red strings connected each of the actors with Treasure likes spokes on a wheel. Or the threads that make up a web. As each tells their story, the web becomes a tangle of memories.

I enjoyed Lucia Treasure’s The Cobweb. It was thought-provoking, relatable, well-conceived and well-executed. It also had a delightful touch of whimsy. The entire ensemble was great; I was particularly impressed with the performances of Scott Burke and Martin Kasey, each of whom effectively embodied his character. Burke portrayed his interviewee so genuinely I felt like I knew him. Kasey’s facial expressions, gestures and posture were charmingly spot-on. Also, Trevor Wilhelms was totally the cat’s meow.

You have one more opportunity to see The Cobweb at Baltimore Annex Theatre (TONIGHT, at 8:00pm!). It’ll be worth your while to go. The show may be brief, but you’ll be talking about the questions it raises for days.

Evan Moritz. Photo courtesy of Annex Theater.

They Were the Ocean

Patricia was there. And Drew was there. And Evan was there…

Immediately following The Cobweb – like before the Cobweb cast had all left the stage – began the second performance of the evening. Annex Founding Artistic Director Evan Moritz performs the final Knee Play of the season, his original piece, They Were the Ocean. They Were the Ocean consists of four stories, each told or sung by a toga-clad Moritz with the accompaniment of original electronic music. It’s performance art, not a play, and it’s mesmerizing.

Moritz’s stories and poems, told in this way, harken back to the ancient art of oral storytelling, a way that societies passed down history, religion, culture, and values before the advent of written language. It is a traditional form of expression still valued in some cultures – the Seanchaí in Ireland and the Shuochang in China, the Hindu ritual of Burra Katha and the still-common practice of Wayang kulit in Bali. From Homeric storytelling to tales around the campfire, it is a form of art familiar to us, as if part of our genetic memory.

Performatively, They Were the Ocean creates an atmosphere mixing both the ancient and the future. Like a group of primitive men huddled around a Launchpad and speaker stack. Parts of the show evoke Nick Cave’s ‘The Carny;’ others are reminiscent of Tyler Durden’s kudzu vine-wrapped Sears Tower.

My favorite story of the night was what may be called It Was Tuesday, the tale of a dystopian future police state. The story itself was interesting and suspenseful and Moritz’s manner of presenting it, with the techno-accompaniment and the repetition of a litany of names, amplified the mood. Perhaps the rhythmic percussion had the same alpha state-inducing quality that tent revival preachers use; it was hypnotic.

They Were the Ocean is unlike anything else you’re going to see in Baltimore today. It’s interesting and moody and weird and it quite possibly results in a temporarily altered mental state. Go see it and see what I mean. I really liked it.

The Cobweb by Lucia Treasure and They Were the Ocean by Evan Moritz close out the Knee Play season TONIGHT at 8:00pm. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea; it’s not meant to be. Remember: Baltimore Annex Theatre: Radical, Experimental Performance is their mission. But if you fondly recognized any of the film and music references above, or if you’re just curious, head downtown tonight to see these works. It may be the most impactful hour of your whole week.

Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes, with no intermission.

Knee Plays – The Cobweb by Lucia Treasure and They Were the Ocean by Evan Moritz plays through TODAY, May 6, 2017 at Baltimore Annex Theater, 219 Park Avenue in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the box office or online.

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