The Exalted

I am really sorry to say that I spent an excruciatingly long hour last night at BAM’s Fishman Space where I saw The Exalted (based on the German-Jewish art historian, Carl Einstein.) I really wish I had liked it more than I did, because Carl Hancock Rux (who conceived and wrote the piece) has a reputation for excellent work. I saw Theo Bleckmann three years ago at BAM when he performed two dramatic song cycles — Out Cold/Zippo Songs — by Phil Kline. It was fantastic. I am also quite familiar with talented director Anne Bogart and SITI Company. So when I chose The Exalted as part of my Next Wave Festival subscription, it was a no brainer. Not so fast. Something about the performance seemed unpolished and repetitive. I loved Bleckmann’s vocals and his sound-effects/musical compositions — and I was touched by many of Hancock Rux’s words. Unfortunately, however, the staging and movement seemed lackluster and although the video by Onome Ekeh was mesmerizing, it really did not help the performance very much. I knew that Carl Einstein’s interest in African sculpture influenced the Cubists, and I knew he was a target by the right-wing Germans in the Weimar period. I was not aware of the genocide of the Herero and Nama people by the Germans in Namibia. But somehow this important information was rather lost in this dream-like performance and I left the theater feeling a little let down. I didn’t dislike the work. I think it has value. I just think it needs refining.

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