Strange Rites

Infernal Bridegroom tries to prove it's as original as its reputation

The piece moves from political to sexual to philosophical questions. Often these questions are explored all at once, as the stage virtually explodes with movement, words and music. Speeches overlap. Snippets of movement evoke images from diverse human arenas, including everything from children's clapping games to sex. The dances are often processional, the speeches almost incantatory. But the dark and seriously somber effect can turn, with the ringing of a telephone, to the sublimely silly. The piece manages to be at once ridiculously funny and mesmerizingly thoughtful, and it promises to leave audience members puzzling over what they saw for days.

This suits both Jucha and Nodler perfectly. In fact, Jucha says he works "towards giving each individual member of the audience their own experience." And he's not averse to using sensory overload to make that happen. "The thing about my pieces," says Jucha, "is that a lot of times people [respond with] 'I'm not sure I got it, but I sure had fun,' and that's fine by me." And as for Jason Nodler, it's the questions, the boundaries, the edge that's beginning to interest him most. With this new work, he's ready to see his company venture into strange new territory.

Posing questions lies somewhere in that murky liquid essence of what art is. Stravinsky's Rite of Spring so profoundly perplexed its turn-of-the-century Parisian audience that they gathered in angry mobs, arguing through the streets of Paris after seeing it for the first time. And though Houston audiences probably won't go raging down Naylor after seeing Last Rites, IBP will no doubt leave a good deal of its audience curious. For Nodler, "evolving and getting better" has nothing to do with following rules and making easy-to-watch theater. Indeed, when he has been cornered by folks demanding to know what some of his more obscure works have meant, his response has been a wonderfully coy, "no, no, no, you don't want to answer [the questions]. You just want to ask them."

Last Rites will play through December 20 at DiverseWorks, 1117 E. Freeway, 223-8346.

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