“Limits of Things, or the Mess” Pushes to the Limits

Reviewed by Dr. Tiffany Raymond, PhD

(This review has been updated to accurately reflect Mr. Thompson’s performance biography.)

Limits of Things, or the Mess creator and performer Mark Conway Thompson describes his show as “three vignettes and two one-act plays for movement theatre.” Given that four of the five are unvoiced pantomime, and there are only a few spoken sentences in the remaining piece, classifying the vignettes vs. the one-act plays remains an audience guessing game at best.

The first piece, “A Portrait of Ordinariness,” is by far the most successful. The lively French café music, Amelie-style, sets the tone for the fast-paced movements of a man going about his daily work routine. Thompson enriches the frenetic quality of the daily routine with details like waving to colleagues as he walks through the office. That being said, given the explosion of remote workers in the wake of the pandemic, this routine may be more of a historical artifact for many of us.

In the third piece, “Captive,” Thompson portrays a statue breaking free of its frozen bondage and discovering motion. The entire piece is performed in the nude. Given the subtleties of such an awakening, some statuesque drapery would have added both movement and tension. The nudity feels gratuitous, and being forced to gaze upon Thompson’s aged, white male body feels like an out-of-touch affront in the post-MeToo era. Bob Steineck’s lighting is a gem in this piece as he beautifully simulates museum-style lighting shining on Thompson’s statue.

The awakening of the statue is actually a bit rushed, considering the duration of the piece. The narrative thread gets lost over the extended length, shifting it from awakening to self-indulgence. Thompson seemingly portrays a Neptune-like god, a comment on the white male’s view of himself, as he appears to swim upwards. The piece is also laden with heavy-handed religious imagery of supplication that’s paired with music torn from a Gothic cathedral to ensure we don’t miss the somber seriousness and godlike tones. If there was a nude, pantomime version of mansplaining, this would be it.

Off the Wall Productions’ Limits of Things, or the Mess plays at the Carnegie Stage through April 3rd. To purchase tickets for the show (proof of vaccination required at the door), please visit https://www.ticketor.com/carnegiestage/tickets/limits-of-things-227439#buy

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