A Blueprint of the Bluegoose, Insight Arts, at United Church of Rogers Park, through May 9. In her 1985 philosophical meditation The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World, Elaine Scarry limns the theatrical/display component of torture. So it’s appropriate that Insight Arts draws in part upon Scarry’s text in its new performance piece investigating the connections between imprisonment, isolation, torture, and memory.
Created and directed by Karen G. Williams (with assistance from Craig Harshaw) and featuring Williams, Nicole Garneau, and Aislinn Pulley, A Blueprint of the Bluegoose combines movement, projections, text, and propulsive, repetitive sound to suggest both the terror and the crushing banality of life under an authoritarian power. In one of the most disturbing segments, Pulley is forced to sit in a metal tub while Williams shines a flashlight in her face, asking repeatedly, “What do you remember?” while Garneau tosses ice cubes at her. The contrast between Williams’s insinuating tone and Garneau’s silent menace chillingly suggests an archetypal good cop/bad cop dynamic.
The piece builds from generalized images to specific stories about crime and punishment derived from the experiences of the performers’ families or friends. Often, when all three are onstage at once, each stands or runs in place in a separate partitioned area of the performance space, occasionally speaking to the others through the walls. It’s a stark, oddly beautiful metaphor for the desire to escape the unendurable and give voice to the unspeakable.