Beth Corning’s latest piece for The Glue Factory, What’s Missing?, was a puzzlement. Performed with noted choreographer and writer Donald Byrd, Missing (as the title indicates) asked more questions than it answered, leaving it up to the viewer to provide a personal solution.
Here Corning still seems to be basking in the dramatic shadows of her 2015 foray into the writings of playwright Samuel Beckett (Act Without Words II and ROCKABY ) and his absurdist world. She found a willing partner in Byrd, who it seems was living in a parallel universe.
Missing was filled with things that were not present. The set was minimal, relying on the New Hazlett Theater’s handsome barebones setting, a single, movable white bench and Iain Court’s lighting, where he once again proved that he can masterfully enhance a performance with subtle underpinnings of emotion and not overwhelm it.
Byrd provided the text, presumably culled from his former theatrical meditations on things like the Israel/Palestinian conflict and the Iraqi war. The textural phrases themselves were minimal and returned often, sometimes in variation. “You are right. You are wrong.” “Nothing will be resolved.”
“This piece is about nothing.” Shades of “Seinfeld?”
Then — “this piece is about everything.” No, Beckett.
Given Corning’s opinionated history, however, the two artists became a tasty combination, as she added her own humanistic touch. It all began with “I am flawed. My body isn’t perfect. The concept of the piece is flawed.”
Dressed all in black, perhaps in mourning, she sat on a bench and tried to link arms with Byrd, lean on him, connect, then move to the floor and spoon as if in bed. Dressed in neutrals (a figment of her imagination?), he was distant and then simply walked away.
Was there a death, or was he simply missing in life?
They performed the bench “ritual” multiple times for the audience, which was seated on three sides, and then with their backs to the people, a hard task for any artist. He learned common card tricks.
She performed a solo with the bench, trying to balance. He did “whirlygigs” and “waterfalls,” faster at her command, then returned to the stringent vocabulary in a speech to conclude it all.
There were many definitions of Missing to be seen and heard, some of which will only come to the surface in the hours and days after this confusing, yet compelling performance.
The contradictory words, written so long ago by Byrd, oddly presage the current political world in Washington, D.C., where the truth switches direction like quicksilver. Fears. Doubt. Rampant contradiction.
As Byrd put it, “A resolution exists only in my imagination.”
Missing continues through Apr. 2. See Listings.