The most incredible moment in this Theatre Y production of a nearly-forgotten German avant-garde play by Peter Handke happens outside the venue. The play is presented against a window that has its curtains open to reveal the 4500 block of North Western in Lincoln Square in all its humdrum neon non-glory. The production enters its umpteenth movement of what sounds like one voice, spread across nine performers, incoherently blaming itself for everything it has ever done. People have chalk and fake blood smeared on them, they’re yelling at each other, it’s all a big old mess. Then this elderly lady walks up to the glass. Mesmerized at the play of bodies, gesturing to ambivalent passers-by like a kid at the fair, she is obviously a plant. Right? She’s in on it, right?
Arlene Arnone Bibbs gives the performance of the millennium in what feels at first like the luckiest accident that’s ever happened to a theater company trying to shake things up. Her appearance does shake things up. Codirectors Melissa Lorraine and Héctor Álvarez get the kind of chaotic magic they were going for and had thus far missed by violating the most sacred expectation of theater: that it has an outside and an inside, and that never the twain shall meet. This frame-shattering sense of fun proves impossible to wring out of a heartless script and a cast that’s been trained to scream what it does not understand. But oh, Ms. Bibbs! Peer in on us anytime! v