This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

11Jan/14

COIL: AN EVENING WITH WILLIAM SHATNER ASTERISK

New Ohio Theatre
154 Christopher St.
Through January 12, $20
888-596-1027
www.ps122.org
www.newohiotheatre.org

“Right now I have something to tell you,” philosopher and starship captain James T. Kirk, as portrayed by the great William Shatner, says near the beginning of An Evening with William Shatner Asterisk. “You could call it a transmission. A transmission from the future. Your future. Where you are going. I’m sure you’d like to know. Do you want to know where you’re going? Or maybe you don’t.” Kirk then goes on to give a nearly sixty-minute lecture that examines art and science, time and space, savagery and civilization. He does so via an ingenious technique developed by director Phil Soltanoff (SITSTANDWALKLIEDOWN) in collaboration with writer Joe Diebes (I/O, Botch) and systems designer Rob Ramirez (I/O): Soltanoff cataloged every word spoken by Kirk on the Star Trek television series, then strung them together to create sentences and new words, sometimes syllable by syllable. (For example, Kirk never said “art,” so Soltanoff clipped if from “start,” while “ontologically” and “epistemologically” were made up from syllables from multiple words.) The audiovisual sampling creates a kind of new language, part classic Shatner choppy overemoting, part early electronic voice generation computer speak. The clips, mainly close-ups of Shatner’s face, appear on a video monitor pushed around the stage silently and deliberately by Mari Akita, as if Kirk is moving about, reminiscent of Shatner’s recent one-man Broadway show, Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It . . . For most of the performance, Kirk’s talk is translated via subtitles on two flanking screens, but by the end the subtitles go away; it is easier to understand because the audience has begun to recognize and associate certain words and pictures. The lecture is rather simplistic and repetitive, even when it occasionally mocks itself, although there are numerous funny bits. The show also includes several minutes of the Star Trek episode A Private Little War as well as a brief monologue by Akita, but they end up being more puzzling than enlightening. “This might seem confusing at first,” Kirk says at one point. “At first you might think I’m full of it. You might think I’m full of shatner.” And really, when all is said and done, is being full of Shatner ever a bad thing?

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