Hypothesis: I Am Alive Right Now and So Are You by Hannah Geil-Neufeld

Hannah Geil-Neufeld

Photo Credit: Theo Goodell

The title might be untestable. But we can try. I’m not going to here. First, am I the You? Are We? Or is it Theo? That’s the nutshell.

Hannah steps out and the stage is huge and it tries to figure her out. Alone she makes metaphors, tries to encapsulate probably LIFE. Bathtubs in parades. She speaks to us and then the modes switch as she adds peculiar gestures. Grabbing backpack straps, ready for school, tooting a horn, shooting for a perfect allegory. I want to hear and I don’t understand what her body’s doing. I can handle convoluted words.

Add another. They’re on buckets and I try to dispense of sociopolitical body markers and relationships but this distracts me. That reading feels unnecessary, but maybe it shouldn’t. I’m nervous to find this relevant.

They set out and the stage is a little more sorted, but where are we going? Out! It’s not easy but it’s continuous: Share a bubble, split a bubble, back and forth meiosis, leave no trace except that they’re there in someplace new. Allegedly they do a good job and thank each other for it. How will we know if they don’t do a good job?

Stop in the middle, a little breather. Utter almost stillness, twitchy and concerned, a little bit of seeing the void. And a dance! Or there’s a song. Smoothing out of everyday gestures, unconcerned, desaturated. I wish I’d paid attention to the lyrics and the shadows on the wall. Are these gestures decontextualized, or… is that all we’ve got.

Onward, bubbling to the finish line. They reach a quilt of sorts and struggle to unravel it. They put it on and it has two cutouts for their faces to poke through. Another unwanted reading creeps in and I bracket it off – they can’t be wearing Muslim attire. Theo’s silent while Hannah remixes some answering machine messages, or at least some phrases jacked with mundanity. Eggs. Blackout. They exit under the blanket.

Meaning was a creep. It kept on sneaking up and freaking me out. As Hannah made little things touch GIANT ones, although it was certainly not 1-to-1, I felt small but also a little useless. Not as an audience member, but as a tinkerer. Mix and match and empathize again and again. The pressures to make and take metaphors.

But wait, okay, another reading: This wasn’t about the fruit of the comparisons, it was about the rind, the verb. Work was done, flitters were generated from friction and they landed or will land. That’s fine and usual, but here the self-aware, self-fulfilling act of comparison muddled the distinctions I’m usually able to create. Many gravities coexisted. In Sam’s piece I found the standardization of naming terrifying/gratifying, and in Hannah’s a similar leveling was done in that I began to lose the versus of small or large gestures, mundane or heightened, allegorical or plain. I was straddling a vacuum. Hannah was helping me get around, alive or not, or maybe we were helping each other like her and Theo.

Questions I am left with: What are the stakes of the leveling out, of the irrelevance of size that this piece encouraged? What do I do with the readings I don’t want/don’t fit, and where do they go? Is the title simply a matter of definition, redefinition, or an invitation for new ways of knowing? And does a hypothesis need to be tested? Is it enough?

Written by Eric Larson

About work by Hannah Geil-Neufeld

Hypothesis: I Am Alive Right Now and So Are You

Red Eye Theater, New Works 4 Weeks festival

Friday, May 29 2015


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