“It was both cinematic and theatrical at the same time,” my friend exclaimed as we clinked our Miller Light bottles. She elaborated: “You had little control over what you could and couldn’t see, like in film, and yet the performers often made it obvious that they knew you were there!”
We leaned against the bar in the Daryl Roth Theatre, taking advantage of the two- for-one drink specials offered to all audience members of Fuerzabruta, the tour-de-force performance art piece currently playing in the large, unconventional Union Square venue. Just 70 minutes ago we had been ushered into a cavernous room; multi-colored lights scanned the floor and were muddled by smoke machines working overtime. Music bordering on Argentine techno pulsed around us; it came from above but we could feel its rhythmic beat vibrating beneath our feet. We shuffled in our allotted spots on the floor and looked at our fellow audience members standing around us; it felt a little like being at a club at 9pm on a Tuesday night. And then the lights went out. Fuerzabruta began, and all that quickly changed.
I puzzled over how to describe Fuerzabruta (which translates to “brute force”) on the train ride home. I don’t want to describe the actual scenes of the show; the less you know about the specifics of what lies in store for you, the more fun you will have. So let’s just say that if a rave and a show at Universal Studios had a baby who grew up to outshine both of its parents, Fuerzabruta would be that child.
Regarding its artistic and technical merits, the show, an experimental spectacle created by Diqui James (the Argentine director who previously brought De La Guarda to the American theatre scene) truly is stunning. Its cast and crew are equally the stars of the piece, and they both get their moment of recognition at the figurative curtain call. (There is no curtain, for really, there is no stage. The action unfurls around and above you.) The show feels very much like a dream turned nightmare, turned dream again. For the first fifteen minutes, I found myself puzzling over what it all meant. That endeavor quickly dissipated. Like a dream, you unconsciously realize that pondering the meaning of everything around you is utterly futile. When it’s all said and done then by all means ponder away, but in the moment, it all just is. Also dreamlike: in some scenes you are an active member of the insanity unfurling around you. The performers acknowledge your presence in a sometimes playful, sometimes almost frightening manner. In others, it is as if you are invisible; a helpless spectator in a surreal world.
Happily, Fuerzabruta doesn’t have that tiresome “Oooh, look at us! We’re edgy and weird and different, check out how edgy and weird and different we are! Take that mainstream society” feel to it that can cause some theatre goers to roll their eyes at the words ‘experimental performance art.’ Quite the contrary; true to the show’s dream-like nature, it feels as if everything unfolding before your eyes is simply the norm in this parallel universe. Whether performers are fervent accomplices or are defenselessly swept along for the ride, they dutifully perform each scene of Fuerzabruta as if they have little choice over the matter. This is their reality and for the length of the show, whether you are staring upward wide eyed and open mouthed or jumping in a joyous frenzy to the music and lights around you, it is your reality as well.
Some words of advice: if you are looking for a more traditional drama, comedy, or musical, Fuerzabruta will leave you rubbing your neck and wishing you had worn more comfortable shoes. But if you are seeking out that certain theatre experience unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, something interactive, intense, befuddling, and incredibly beautiful, then Fuerzabruta absolutely cannot be missed.
Click here to buy group tickets.