The Umbilical Point, written and performed by Gabriel Rodriguez. Directed by David Anderson. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
"In the city the quiet is loud."
You enter an environment, a web of cloth, a structure of solidity that ought to be moving but instead draws you in, girder-firm, deceptively solid. It surrounds you, holds you, your attention focused on a single figure floating above the stage floor, draped in filmy black cloth which should allow you to view the form beneath but instead holds you apart from it. . .until it begins to move, it's all too grotesque human face demanding your attention. From the angle of its legs and the quiet if ominous sounds the emanate from within, you think, it is clear that you are now caught in the vision of an enormous spider.
At some point in time the hallway lights are diminished and you are alone with this thing on the stage. You actually expect the web of cloth to make a move, to be sticky, to cling to your body when unexpectedly the form center stage begins to move again to stretch its hideous face and to speak. This is how the play, "The Umbilical Point," begins. If you have any sensitivity to the concept of identity you are trapped in this web like a fly is when a spider advances on it. The web's occupant tries out words of identity, settles on one and emerges full grown, an over-sized boy with a need to move out of its enclosure and into a world it does not understand. The creature has evolved to the umbilical point and its journey begins.
It is a remarkable journey to experience. What was horribly mis-shapen and distorted is suddenly lovely, handsome, erotic in its youthfulness. That transition from fetus to child is a brilliant and exuberant dance into life, thwarted by the shell out of which it emerges. It is a voyage created by, choreographed for and performed through the talents of Gabriel Rodriguez.
Everything about this youthful talent is a surprise. His height is overbearing. His movements are remarkably definite. His voice is syrup, the darkest grade imaginable. His imagination and his facility for monologue are dual engines revving up to revelations. His character Pablo, on a quest to discover the whereabouts of his one connection to his humanity, is a heart-breaker. In just under one hour Rodriguez gives you all of this and more.
Director David Anderson has chosen the subtlety of a half-circle in which to illuminate the life-force of Pablo. He has clearly guided his actor, with the help of movement consultant Hunter Toran, into the tightness of a performance that blossoms slowly and flowers engagingly. With subtle sounds aided by the guidance of music consultant Eric Mueller and visual expression through the color-challenged lighting by Sean Madey, Maurice Koenig, Raphael Elmasri and Miles Chilson, Anderson and Cocoro Tani sitting offstage, but still within the cloth web, provide the beat and rhythm through which the actor works.
This hour of devised theater is unlike anything else you are likely to experience. Rodriguez and Anderson invite you into Pablo's world and in doing so invite you to become his victim, his accomplice, his friend, his enemy, his audience and his creator. You will wonder afterward about the ritual killing of spiders. You will ponder afterward the relationship of a child with his much older sister. You will wander the streets of Hudson, NY anticipating more open honesty than you are likely to find. You will find yourself haunted by the eyes of the actor, the mouth and voice of the actor, the sounds of human jazz, the lights of understanding while all the while understanding very little. You will realize, ultimately, that as human beings we are normally cut off from the outrage of reality in our relationship to the world around us.
Most important of all -- you will be glad you came to Walking the Dog Theatre's production of "The Umbilical Point."
The Umbilical Point runs through November 30 at Solaris, 360 Warren Street, Hudson, NY. Admission is free, though there is a requested donation of $10 - $30. The show plays Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and the donations are part of Walking The Dog Theatre's Free Culture Initiative. For information and reservations call 518-610-0909.