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Jubilee

This Rubber Rep show throws lots of weirdness our way, but some of it is beautiful

Reviewed by Dan Solomon, Fri., April 20, 2012

Skivvies jamboree: the cast of <i>Jubilee</i>
Skivvies jamboree: the cast of Jubilee
Photo courtesy of Steve Rogers

Jubilee

The Off Center, 2211-A Hidalgo
www.rubberrep.org
Through April 21
Running time: 1 hr., 20 min.

Few shows come with a metaphor for the entire performance built right into the opening, but Jubilee is one of them. This Rubber Repertory production – which seems to start whenever the notoriously loud air conditioner at the Off Center turns off – begins with the cast of 10 sitting at the back of the stage, staring out at the audience. Eventually, as they move forward, eight of them begin a silent, synchronized movement piece that's fairly stunning in its precision; the other two sit, one to play a piano and the other next to the piano, blowing up a balloon. How big is the balloon going to get? Downright enormous. Is it going to pop, or is the performer blowing it up going to tie it off? Blowing it up until it explodes is more immediately shocking, but tying the balloon off is the more challenging and impressive feat. Sure enough, the balloon is tied, and the dance reaches its end. Then, of course, the pin goes into the balloon with a bang.

Jubilee wants you to know that it's capable of doing the hardest things onstage, but the show wants the shock-value thrill of the pop, too.

There are a lot of terms which haven't got the greatest connotations that it's hard to avoid using when talking about Jubilee, and "shock value" is one of them. "Performance Art" is another, and that's Performance Art with caps like that because the piece features a lot of the sort of weird-for-weirdness'-sake oddness that characterizes the form. There are moments where the whole cast screams at once, out of nowhere; where a cast member shouts an out-of-context monologue about a repressive childhood; where one performer stands topless and kisses every other member of the cast one by one. Jubilee is not ashamed to go full weirdo and embrace the sort of remarkable nonsense that one might find in a parody of Seventies-style performance art.

This is OK, because when talented people throw so much weirdness at an audience, some of it is going to be beautiful, too. There are costume changes (done in full light in the middle of the stage, naturally) that transform the cast into something resembling what the X-Men might look like if led by Lady Gaga. There are feats of physical endurance undertaken repeatedly that reveal just how impressively committed the cast is to the work. There are rituals undertaken, right there in front of you, whose purpose is seemingly just to dazzle and amaze. It's called Jubilee, but it's not really about joy – unless it's about rejoicing in the fact that people are capable of performing remarkable feats in front of us, un-self-consciously chasing the extreme for its own sake. That's something to celebrate, too.

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