Friday, July 9, 2010

Brooklyn Underground

Many Green-Woods collided at the Artful Conspirator's preview last month of "Brooklyn Underground: Theatrical Stories from the Green-Wood Cemetery." The performance opened with a clash of opinion which wasn't about liking or disliking the historic Brooklyn cemetery; each character agreed that it was wonderful. It was the "why" that was the point to be argued. A referee came out to make sure the debate was carried out in an orderly fashion. There was the tree constituent, who argued that the finest part is the landscape, the history buff, who brought to attention the famous people who are buried there, and the monument faction. These are all current, present-time voices, however, and we all know that there is more to Green-Wood than the living. The cemetery's past was evoked with selections from a book of regulations from 1853, some that surely have evolved in a straight line from then to now, such as those concerning plot sizes, and others that are humorously archaic (with mentions of riding on horseback and speed limits of four miles per hour). But what does make Green-Wood so special to its neighbors? It might not have to do with the past or the present, but a superimposition of one on the other: the imagined stories and lives of any of the 560,000 permanent residents. The theater group segued into this imagined Green-Wood with an interpretation of the family dynamics that might have led to the placement of two 19th-century family members at the opposite ends of a plot. Aaron Fisher provided the music, including a rendition of a song that DeWitt Clinton might sing if he had today's rap music at his disposal. The show was reminiscent of Spike Jonze's film Adaptation in which the audience is taken through the process of discovery and witnesses the resulting creation. There couldn't be a more fitting way to convey what Green-Wood is. Although the show might morph into another animal by the end of August, if the Artful Conspirators bring the same talent, heart, and humor that they brought to the preview, it's going to be a pure delight.

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