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Stopped Bridge of Dreams

John Jesurun's multimedia work may be more effective online than in the theater.

By New York City
Preston Martin and Black-Eyed Susan
in Stopped Bridge of Dreams
(© Darien Bates)
Preston Martin and Black-Eyed Susan
in Stopped Bridge of Dreams
(© Darien Bates)
To many theatergoers, John Jesurun's multimedia work, Stopped Bridge of Dreams, now at La MaMa, will come off as a confusingly soporific post-modern soap opera. But it may appear differently to those who view it as it unfolds at www.bridgedream.com as Jesurun also intends.

As a result, the action -- or inaction, as the case may be -- is photographed throughout by cameras behind scrims at each end of the corridor-like playing area and also from other, sometimes overhead, sometimes under chin angles.

Furthermore, because the eight-member cast is augmented by varying guests such as theater stalwarts John Kelly and Judith Malina -- who are encouraged to bring their own spontaneous notions to the enterprise -- any segment of the growing script isn't the same from day to day.

As for the basic (hour-long) story, conversations occur between a character known as Mrs. X (Black-Eyed Susan, whispering her dialogue so that some audience members called for her to speak up) and her son Hiroshi (Preston Martin). Mostly, though, they banter while languidly fanning themselves at the opposite ends of something resembling a ping pong table.

As it turns out, Jesurun has been inspired by Lady Sarashina's As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams, the 11th-century tale of a reclusive, story-obsessed woman. In adapting it, he's imagined that Mrs. X and Hiroshi are the proprietors of a jet that only lands infrequently while serving as a bordello for its passengers. Prominently aboard with them are Claire (Claire Buckingham), a prostitute; Eisenhower (Ikechukwu Ufomadu), a mechanic who's prospered; and young Olive (Olive Dawley), who, like Lady Sarashina, is fascinated by tales.

In addition, on two swiveling screens hung above the players, previously videotaped talking heads (Buck Henry, Valerie Charles and Fiona Templeton sometimes among them) turn up. Alternatively, images appear of clouds and what seems to be exhaust and the nose of a jet heading for a lighted night-time runway.

Since Stopped Bridge of Dreams is a running narrative, one suspects its often nebulous lines could be completely compelling to someone who is following the series regularly on the web, while these same mutterings can sound foolish when quoted out of context. On the other hand, reckoning the context of one apparent chapter in a longer stage novel isn't a simple task -- not when the series of exchanges are continually grating, downbeat, tiresome and, worse, pretentious. Still, one suspects that Jesurun deserves the benefit of the severe doubt.


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