I’m still processing William Forsythe’s I don’t believe in outer space, which opened at BAM on Wednesday evening. For the first twenty minutes or so, I worried that it was going to be a repeat of Decreation, which I reviewed in 2009. That work was irritating, but the harsh and jarring qualities of the piece were ultimately a commentary on how we communicate with one another. And so with outer space, it initially felt and looked quite similar, with exaggerated voices, chaotic interactions, and disorienting sounds. But as the piece progressed and mixed hilarious use of lyrics from Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” with profound reflections on mortality, I was deeply moved. And how satisfying to watch as the various threads from the work came together and cohered. Just when it ended – after a poignant scene in which the audience heard Dana Caspersen’s natural voice (as opposed to her exaggerated ‘character’ voices earlier in the work) – I wasn’t quite ready to let go, and clung to the final moments of outer space for as long as I could. Forsythe’s work has always challenged me, and has even bothered me at times. Outer space was no exception. But it struck a chord more so than previous Forsythe works that I’ve seen, perhaps because it so smartly – albeit still messily – blended humor with sadness.
A final thought: The New York Times review says that the characters we see are “freaks”, possibly meant to be laughed at, and that Forsythe creates a “hellish anti-world”. Freaks? No, I’m certain that the characters we see are us. We laugh because we recognize ourselves in these characters. And Forsythe’s “hellish anti-world”? That’s our world.