Over the past several years, innovative multidisciplinary performance artist John Kelly has been revisiting past works while also continuing to challenge himself and his audience in exciting new pieces, whether it’s a final restaging of Pass the Bluttwurst, Bitte at La MaMa last year or the world premiere of the highly adventurous The Escape Artist at P.S. 122 this past April. Kelly is currently revising his Bessie Award-winning Find My Way Home at New York Live Arts, the new name for the space where it was commissioned in 1988, by the former Dance Theater Workshop. (So one could say that is has indeed found its way home.) Set during the Great Depression, Find My Way Home, which recently held open rehearsals at the Museum of Arts and Design as part of that institution’s Risk + Reward series, is a reimagining of the Orpheus myth that also incorporates elements of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Featuring eleven dancers and singers and film projections, Find My Way Home runs at NYLA through October 29; there will be a preshow talk October 25 with Lucy Sexton and a postshow talk October 28 with Bonnie Marranca. Kelly is a mesmerizing performer with an endlessly creative mind who is always worth watching, no matter what he is doing, so we cannot recommend this show highly enough.
Update: When John Kelly first presented Find My Way Home at Dance Theater Workshop in 1988, it was infused with the growing AIDS epidemic, dealing with the horrific loss being suffered particularly in the arts community. He brought it back ten years later, and he has revised it yet again, in a wonderfully fresh version running at New York Live Arts through October 29. Even though Find My Way Home 3.0 is set during the Great Depression, it is hard not to think of the current financial crisis and the Occupy Wall Street movement, as the multimedia production opens with obscenely wealthy aristocrats (Daniel Squire, Cecelia Jones, Aaron Mattocks, and original cast member Marleen Menard) treating parlour maid Eurydice (Kyle de Camp, also returning from the original production) like a slave, the rich abusing the poor. Radio crooner Orfeo (Kelly) arrives and sings in front of a faux fireplace, focusing his attention on the maid, and the two soon run away together, Orfeo ripping off Eurydice’s French maid outfit to reveal a sexy red dress. But their love comes to a screeching halt when a car runs them over, killing Eurydice and blinding Orfeo, who then travels to the Underworld to try to get her back and rekindle their passionate flame. Find My Way Home features virtually no dialogue, instead playing out like an old-time silent film, going back and forth between black and white and color, with live musical accompaniment by pianist Alan Johnson, cellist Mary Wooten, and vocalists Philip Anderson, Amanda Boyd, Gregory Purnhagen, and Barbara Rearick. Carefully choreographed movement, Anthony Chase’s ghostly filmed projections, and Stan Pressner’s lighting design — which includes an effective strobe light scene and another in which Orfeo crawls across windowlike rectangles glowing across the floor — combine with popular songs by Cole Porter, Noël Coward, and George Gershwin and classical music and opera pieces by Alban Berg, Claude Debussy, Giuseppe Verdi, and of course, Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo ed Eurydice to create a stirring production that honors its past while still remaining relevant today. (To further that, a lobby exhibition displays several of Kelly’s 1988 preparatory drawings, a video of rehearsals for the original production, and the remaining section of set designer Huck Snyder’s backdrop; Snyder died of AIDS in 1993 at the age of thirty-nine.) It is absolutely thrilling that Find My Way Home has indeed found its way home.