Joe Goode’s “Hush” at Z Space, September 26

29 Sep

Joe Goode and his company moved into Project Artaud following the death of long-time occupant Pepe Ozan and his space was renamed the Joe Goode Annex.

Project Artaud started out in 1925 as the American Can Company, providing jobs for San Francisco’s Mission residents until the 1960’s. A group of artists formed a non-profit organization in 1971, naming the space after Antonin Artaud [1896-1948]. The city block houses three theaters of varying sizes and some 80 practicing artists, mostly visual artists and designers; their evocative work are displayed in the Gallery section of the Web-site. At the 2013 Isadora Duncan Dance Award Ceremony, the house manager mentioned proudly that it is the oldest artists’ cooperative in the United States.

The Z Space itself seats 229 on riser seating which has been reconfigured in at least three different ways that I personally witnessed. The organization recently added Z Below, with 88 seats, once the home of A Traveling Jewish Theatre. Lisa Steindler is the artistic and Lori Lacqua the executive director.

Hush as a word has familial connotations, namely “shut up.” Here, however, Hush here refers to an individual’s desire not to talk about painful experience or almost pathological hesitation. These interpretations are part of Goode’s on-going focus on the “outsider,” the pangs of isolation for “not fitting in,” or exposition of some monumental personal divide. It reminds me of the family comment “fitting in with the family plans,” to which the retort is “what plans?”

Before discussing the production with its evocative values, I want to state that for the audience to read the program without squinting or resorting to sheer intuition, Z space might install a few more lights for said purpose. I could scarcely make out the letters, with cataracts currently far from ripe. Plus, whoever was responsible for the program format and color choices might remember that the first directive for a program is to be readable physically, not simply an exercise in color contrast and printing obscura. The results may have been striking on the cover, but the interior could not possibly qualify for bon usage, photographs and white text on grey excepted. The characters also were not identified with names of their interpreter. How casual can one get?

The set and sound effects moved the action forward with genuine facility. A door downstage left symbolized the distant domicile of the young woman [Damara Vita Ganley] who was gang raped, and a corrugated sheet on rollers, painted manure hue with graffiti, proclaimed the wall where two male characters lounged; and there was a bar that moved as well a small circular table with a couple of chairs, where Jessica Swanson effectively conveyed an ambitious woman blind to the effect her career comments sound to a man whose sexuality is probably his main calling card in her landscape. The edge was unmistakable.

Jennifer Gonsalves’ costume choices seemed like a near masterpiece on haphazard morning dressing,tee-shirts color-hued monotony standouts.

If I have to rely on physical appearance alone, Felipe Barrueto-Cabello and Melecio Estrella were the two gay men who finally connect in one of the most lyric dancing passages in the piece. Hush primarily seemed to state a situation and then it was acted/danced out, making the “trajectory” loose and episodic,

I have to guess it was Andrew Ward and Alexander Zendzian who slouched or slumped against the corrugated wall with enormous style and cinematic acuity. When the career tirade and the prospect of moving to Salt Lake City arrived in the dialogue, one of them, making pickles, provided chuckles as he plunked green circles into what was intended to be pickling brine.

There is no question that Joe Goode has a laconic wit, is familiar with the drifting, directionless sub-epidemic cloaking many, many American lives, providing it with a theatrical portrait conveying the casual covering desperate interior confusion. As someone emerging from The Great Depression with relief, I, perhaps unfortunately, prefer a brisker beat.

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