Bushwick is a long way from Manhattan. There’s no East 4th Street Arts Block, there’s not (yet) a Starbucks on every corner, and there’s no fantasy of a a newer, more accessible subway line. The broken down L train couldn’t even get me there this past Saturday, when I ventured out from the deep depths of South Brooklyn to see Eric Schmalenberger and Raging Squid Ink’s presentation of Dead Dream Machine.
Brooklyn is a series of inaccessible neighborhoods, and the artists who’ve landed here, market rate rent refugees turned outer borough connoisseurs, make art where they live. New venues are springing up all over the place, theater makers are creating work they can walk to, and reflecting the ethos of their given hoods. I’ve seen intense yet sophisticated theater with clogs in Carroll Gardens, poetic theater for social change in Clinton Hill, in December I’ll be staging philosophical plays for grown-up hipsters in Park Slope, and last Saturday I witnessed degenerate ballet at La Luz in Bushwick.
Dead Dream Machine, written by Jake Thomas, directed and choreographed by Rachel Klein, creates its own genre, let’s call it Goth Sketch Comedy, and then nearly perfects it. Mad scientists whose tenure needs to be revoked, puppets who are people, death as a corruptible middle manager, high-schoolers with hard-ons for hanged men, and lascivious ballerinas, take us on a journey that is less about dreams than the horrible waking moments that feel like dreams. We find that what is most terrible is just how unquantifiable our own horribleness can be. The characters in these disconnected scenes are primarily cruel, heartless, and selfish. It’s not surprising when they betray each other, or are so overcome by their own fear or shame that they abandon their friends to wretched fates.
I’ve been a dreamer of nightmares and recurring dreams for years, and I kept looking for that repeating dream, the one the dreamer cannot escape. While it was not there in words, it was there in Klein’s delicate transitions between the dreams. At these moments, the dreamer appeared, an observer in her own consciousness, led by a steam-punk shaman, to watch a ballerina drift between innocence and degradation, never able firmly set foot firmly in either state of being. For my own taste, I would have preferred if the individual scenes had more connectivity, recurring characters, for example, but a narrative can only be imposed by the dreamer upon waking, and the dreamer in this piece stayed sleeping, her consciousness splayed open on the slab of the stage.
This is the first run of a new show La Luz, and the space is great. It was welcoming while still slightly off-putting, cheap drinks, vegan snacks, and a bunch of people who all honestly seem to dig each other. Let’s see more at La Luz. They don’t even need the L train, they have a fucking party bus.
If you go (you should go), you have four more nights to check it out:
Thursday 10/10 – Sunday 10/13 @ 8 pm, doors at 7:30 pm
135 Thames Street
(L to Morgan, or get on the party bus)
find everything else you need here: www.DeadDreamMachine.com