'Store' has performing art for sale

Posted: September 02, 2008

Finally, proclaims the flyer that announces the opening of a shop called store at 244 South St., "art is finally affordable for everyone!" So I went with my wife to buy some.

Inside the store, which has no shelves and no obvious merchandise, people were sitting on the hardwood floor and the window display area, or along the walls.

They read from a list of items while the proprietors, Michikazu Matsune from Japan and David Subal from Austria, took their orders. From the "Cheap Copies" inventory, I ordered a Mikhail Baryshnikov for 75 cents. I paid, and next thing I knew, Subal was up on a white riser, doing his pose of the famous dancer, while Matsune commented on his colleague's performance.

Then, from the "Take Away" list, some customers ordered "United Air" and paid $4.25. The two men performed their idea of what United Air really is (I'm not going to spoil this by describing anything too fully).

"This is a take-away item," Matsune said after the two-minute performance, then put the props they were using in a box and handed them to the customers.

We stayed about 90 minutes, until the store's closing time, and saw people buy a dozen "products," as the two men sometimes call their art. Some came from a category called "Delivery Service," so customers not only got a performance, they'll also be receiving some memento of it in the mail. Some performances were sold out; Matsune and Subal had done them too many times that day already.

One item had them running from the store with a huge plastic sheet, an action that stopped South Street traffic for a minute. Another, which we had just missed when we came in, had taken them onto the street in their underwear. Masking tape figures into some of their performance items. In one, clothes hangers make the point.

The men offer about 70 items for sale, from under a buck to the highest one, $20. The dynamic in the store changes as customers come and go, or look in the window to try and figure out what's happening. It's a fine put-on about art, merchandising and consumerism. Do we really get what we pay for? Why do we want it? What makes it attractive? Would we buy another item from these guys? (store explores many of the themes that Pig Iron Theatre's Pay Up plumbed in a hit Fringe show three seasons back, and equally well.)

The somewhat disheveled, welcoming and wholly sincere Matsune and Subal can be magnetizing; their thoroughly mixed merchant/artist demeanor heightens the experience. "Excellent choice," they will say to customers, then they'll begin their little performance.

At one point, about 40 people came into the store to watch and maybe 25 more stood outside the storefront window. Not only was the shopping experience fulfilling, it was a social phenomenon - as close as you'll come in 2008 to what everyone used to call a Happening.

   - Howard Shapiro


Free; you pay only for the movements, actions and behaviors you purchase. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 3-6 p.m. through Saturday, 244 South St.

Pushkin at Boldino. It's a clever idea Armina LaManna obviously borrowed from Pirandello. But where Pirandello was nagged by his incomplete dramatic characters (Six Characters in Search of an Author), LaManna's Pushkin is nagged by the incomplete fictional characters who populate his story, "The Queen of Spades." This necessitates a lot of awkward, static and nontheatrical narrating, since fiction is fiction and drama is drama.

Aleksandr Pushkin, considered the greatest of the 19th-century Russian poets, had his problems: often in trouble with the czar, often broke, married to the most beautiful woman in the country who was an incorrigible flirt and spendthrift. Eventually, he was killed by one of his wife's lovers in a duel. But I digress. None of this, dramatic and interesting as it is, has anything much to do with Pushkin at Boldino.

Pushkin (Greg Bell) creates the story and situations (this done with a quill pen and speaking the words he's writing aloud), and the characters appear onstage. They become disobedient, inventing scenes and holding conversations their author never wrote, making demands. This is sometimes entertaining, but it's a one-joke play that lasts 90 minutes, with too much empty stage time passing itself off as significant pauses. Nicole Erb is the only standout in the large cast.

   - Toby Zinman


$15. Tomorrow and Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday at 7:30 p.m. and 11 p.m., Saturday at noon and 4 p.m.; Sunday at 2 at Plays and Players, 1714 Delancey Place.

Bash (Latterday Plays). When you walk into a Neil LaBute play, you figure that at some point there will be blood. With Bash (Latterday Plays) you get that blood three times over in a trio of monologues that always end badly for someone. Unfortunately, Crooked Mirror's production also manages to make that violence rather bloodless.

Of the three mini-plays - Iphigenia in Orem, A Gaggle of Saints and Medea Redux - only the final piece, featuring Charlotte Northeast as a latterday version of the mythic murderous mother, retains its resonance. That Northeast's performance is powerful as it is - from her flat Midwestern accent to her flattened demeanor - shows the depth of her empathy for this character. Iphigenia's Damon Bonetti is too bogged down in perfecting his businessman impression when he should instead be examining the narcissist inside the suit. And while Gaggle's Alyssa Kondracki and Derick Loafmann are believable individually as a pair of privileged prep school grads, their overlapping lines consistently fail to overlap and they never unite in the sort of mutual and committed self-delusion that makes this playlet so disturbing.

The production lacks most of the tension, mounting horror and nods to blood atonement that resulted in LaBute being disfellowshipped from the Mormon church. Unfortunately, director Aaron Oster flails under this material's misanthropic microscope.

   - Wendy Rosenfield


$15. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, and Sept. 10 and 11; 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sept. 12; 1 p.m. Saturday. At Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church, 723 N. Bodine St.

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