La MaMa Blogs: Magic Agency Chapter 4: Bro-Tox — A Response by Stephanie Vevers)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Magic Agency Chapter 4: Bro-Tox — A Response by Stephanie Vevers)

To me a clarity rang out in the piece I saw. It contained concerted effort to go through to where “men” can find spaces in which to begin to re.imagine maleness and the enactment of maleness.

No pandering or aiming at segments of the audience. In a sense “men” is a category that stands in for any of us.

The extensive incorporation of dance, the male nudity, still or moving; the unstinting mop/mother sex scene, unparalleled, and ways of engaging with what constitutes male sexuality and male vulnerability are key, putting it out there on the page/on the stage. Rather than seeing it as performing/putting into view "toxic masculinity,” as posited in a blurb, I see it as posing that as an opening.

We already know about our perverse culture; so, how to see through it, to the existence of possibility, seems as compelling as further delineating its corrosiveness –– i.e., the endgoal, as theater, was not to show toxic-ness, but rather to create an inversion chamber, an apparatus of seeing. 

Being a work about two brothers, means it is not me-too, but (reaching back to the soil/fundament of feminist consciousness-raising of the 1970s) perhaps it embraces the profound awkwardness, the gut membranes, of such endeavors, spearing an elusive us-too for men and seeking to expand all of our discourse.

This is reinforced by the men-only 2-man cast and mainly 3-man collaboratively-engendered production, raising the question, Must the other gender be out of the room, if men are to re-evaluate maleness?

Beyond such interpretations of its meaning, the form of the work is composed of a greater arc, bringing theater, dance and text into a whole. At once both cryptic and overt, of both intellect and physicality, its tempo is similarly a mind-body puzzle, between shock and reverie.

The rigor in all the portrayals by the two opposing actors is liberatory, and its starkness is related to that.

Neo-burlesque, reclaimed by contemporary women dancers and performers, seems to me to be a precedent and influence, or having rhyming rationales. Burlesque as I have glimpsed it in Brooklyn, takes women's agency as a given and benevolently may assume shared pleasure is possible. Though in life shared pleasure is often fraught or impossible, this problematic situation may be suspended during the burlesque show. Here, it's quite another scenario, also tackling the impossible.

Bro-Tox is relentless and abrasive on the surface while of a rich braid of elements, sources and echoes theatrically. The “flaying” of male armor, the play's palette of disrobing, gives a chance to shed sentimentality and is rather “zazen-like” in making us “return to the breath” again and again. Perhaps the corrosiveness of the brothers makes us extra-willing to own our seated pose.

The shape of the loft-theater space and seating of audience also, through some chance, had echoes of a zazen group, arrayed in 2 facing rows, as with a Buddhist temple hall's theater and regalia, duel and drama of cutting through sloth and delusion, in between. The initial actions, offstage; preparation of space by vacuuming carpet; chair as throne; self vs altar, heighten this echo. Though per the “plot” the characters are dissolute, even abject, heraldically the characters are like profane and sacred guardians in their fierce energy.

While holding Samuel Beckett, O’Neill, clowning, Greek tragedy or classic 70s-to-now avant-garde theater, TV’s Loud family or Survivor; underpinnings that might include Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneemann’s vaginal scroll or harness drawings, or Vito Acconci’s “Seedbed,” Bro-Tox is willing to collage its pastiche in which plot and speech are almost calligraphic, and give the audience the satisfaction of performing quite a bit of the peristalsis of making out the story.

The violence and startlingness within the play, become strokes that bring out a fullness and amplitude –– in effect it evokes a necessary question about the violence within our own over-simplifications of national and global and local ethics: how can we move beyond reductive “zero tolerance” to apply our full cultural, aesthetic, and societal capacities to our encounters with the current moment?


I am appreciating how the personas of the characters are elaborated while also being pared back, in such a way that audiences can see themselves, also stripped of their own usual trappings.

Stephanie Vevers came to NYC in her early 20s, and for a decade saturated herself in the avant-garde film, dance, theater, poetry and visual art of downtown’s Soho, East Village and Tribeca and frequented and participated in art spaces such as Printed Matter, Collective for Living Cinema, Poetry Project, Millennium Film Workshop, Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theater, and the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds; Nam Jun Paik, Shigeko Kubota, and dancing Lucinda Childs in the luminous Kitchen in SoHo, squares of foam for seating; at Franklin Furnace, John Berger, John Cage, and a "dance class for poets" with Yoshiko Chuma, and at La Mama, Mabou Mines, and Theodora Skipitares. This formative immersion in art for art’s sake impelled ongoing curiosity and questioning: Currently a favorite dilemma is our human gut microbiota –– science or culture? How can we all as creative thinkers be part of translating microbiome research into public health, good food, new and revived cultural practices.

After a sold-out run in Fall 2019, MAGIC AGENCY CHAPTER 4: Bro-Tox returns for 3 performances!

La MaMa presents

Written by Jonas Kyle and Sean Lewis
Featuring Jim Fletcher and Sean Lewis
Sound by Forrest Gillespie
Set Design by Jonas Kyle
House Manager: James Gittens
Stage Manager: Holly Stefanik

January 17 - January 19, 2020

Friday at 8PM; Saturday and Sunday at 5PM

47 Great Jones Street Studios
47 Great Jones Street

(Between Bowery and Lafayette Street)

New York, NY 10012

Tickets: $20 Adults/$15 Students/Seniors

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE

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