Written by Malcolm Durning
Tucked away in Gowanus, Brooklyn, is a little blue brick building with a sign so small you might miss it: MITU580. Inside you will find an interdisciplinary art space, home to an experimental theater group that is challenging everything we know about theater. Theater Mitu’s most recent creation: HOUSE (or how to lose an orchard in 90 minutes or less) premiered this August and is a prime example of how Theater Mitu, lead by artistic director Rubén Polendo, has taken the rule book and tossed it out the window.
With an ensemble of eight actors (two of which only appear on television screens), fourteen TV monitors, three ring lights, various portable microphones, and the bare framing of a one-room home, Theater Mitu’s latest production is a testament to their commitment to the innovation and experimentation of theater. With source material from Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and Nobuhiko Obayashi’s cult horror film House, Mitu challenges the very structure of storytelling. Interweaving technological and physical artistic mediums, ranging from video clips and interview segments, to the musical instrumentation of a handsaw, HOUSE does not provide a linear narrative for the audience to follow. Rather, the production offers a multidimensional conversation that encourages the audience to project their own meaning on the piece. HOUSE does not do the work for you- rather it asks you, the audience member, to build your own narrative.
The soundscape, experienced by every audience member through personal headsets, was what I found most thrilling and impressive. The intricate work of sound technician Alex Hawthorn paired with the hauntingly sweet vocals by Ada Westfall set an eerie tone for the entire piece. Mitu’s use of hyper-specific sound mixing powerfully dictated my emotional response, regardless of the spoken text or the actors' performance. Mitu’s use of sound was masterfully manipulative, in the absolute best way possible.
Beyond the soundscape, HOUSE has some room for renovations. The text, although heavily researched and specifically curated, remained generally on the same emotional plane throughout the hour and ten-minute performance. Although the show’s description suggests “mass migration and displacement,” there was scant mention of these issues and their social relevance in our country today. The somewhat emotionally restricted performances from the actors made the piece feel more like a performance art piece, rather than a theatrical performance. Perhaps that is the line Theater Mitu is trying to blur?
HOUSE (or how to lose an orchard in 90 minutes or less) runs August 23 to September 8. Theater Mitu demonstrates exactly what Thread seeks to promotes: multimedia collaboration. We are inspired by their dedication to experimentation and the blurring of artistic lines. We highly recommend you visit MITU580 and check out their unconventional approach to theater. Click here to purchase tickets for HOUSE (or how to lose an orchard in 90 days or less).
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