Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre: IN THE SOLITUDE OF COTTON FIELDS
Posted by Tall Matt Haynes
PROLOGUE: It’s 10:10 on the Wednesday night, September 15th. For the fifth and final time, Tall Matt Haynes frantically turns the key in his battery-dead car before yielding to the given circumstances. After he makes the embarrassed phone call and before the roadside repair does in 30 seconds what he probably couldn’t have figured out in 30 hours, Tall Matt Haynes sits back and reflects: Perhaps this car trouble was really divine post-show intervention? Did Tall Matt Haynes need a cold splash of domestic slog to put his system back into neutral? ‘Cause moments after experiencing IN THE SOLITUDE OF COTTON FIELDS at the Winningstad,Tall Matt Haynes had indeed floated back to his car in a state that may have made him dangerous behind the wheel…
Oh Bliss, what odd forms you sometimes take.
In this recent case, it’s an avant-Euro-glam rap battle: In the background, a pack of shaggy droogs (The Natural Born Chillers) blast out eardrum-bruising discopunk while in the foreground, two haughty, pretty, sharply dressed young Poles compete for status. That is when they aren’t just letting that irresistible beat carry them away.
COTTON FIELDS is directed by Radoslaw Rychcik and based on the text by the late Bernard-Marie Koltès. For a plot, I got: The bloke on the left is a drug dealer. The bloke on the right is a junkie. They might have crushes on each other. But the one on the left is very sensitive to rejection. And the one on the right is very sensitive to condescension. So they feud using poetic words and movements. After thoroughly upsetting each other, they take us through a film vortex of the edgy pop soul (video clips from cult pulp faves like SANTA SANGRE, TWIN PEAKS, VELVET GOLDMINE and so forth) and they emerge lovers… and dancers!
For the show’s duration, I tried to give my cheeks a rest from smiling but they just kept floating up like helium balloons. I was head over heels in puppy love with what I was being put through.
Hold it, Tall Matt Haynes. From your description, this show doesn’t sound any more cohesive than FLOODING WITH LOVE FOR THE KID nor RONNIE BASS, both of which had you crinkling your nose at their mixtures of goof and earnestness. What’s the difference here?
I think that THE SOLITUDE OF COTTON FIELDS isn’t so much goofy as it is absurd and not so much earnest as it is fierce. Earnestness and goof don’t mix too well in my meta-tummy but absurdity and ferocity do. And the following elements of mastery don’t hurt either:
-An organic and satisfying build in relationship and spectacle
-a near constant dynamic of restraint/release (except in the over-long video clip that still provided…)
-Gratifying geek referencing
-Lean, captivating and beautifully synched lighting designs (including flashes on the Winningstad’s house ceiling, temporarily turning it into an added set piece)
-A scratching of many itches of the rocker-id: We get music with a violent pump and swagger, we get a live stripping, we get primal screams, we get to see flashing lights, we get drug environments, we get a movie, we get beauty, we get doom and we get to throw away each moment of it all with divine abandon.
I’m reminded again of Peter Brook’s view of Beckett as visceral catharsis. I admired the TBA Beckett piece FIRST LOVE but didn’t enjoy it viscerally: COTTON on the other hand, takes a similar kind of gaming, tension, neurosis, entrapment, confusion and circularity and had me feeling like I had just been to the party of my dreams.