This Veterans Day I hesitated earlier than texting my good friend Jasper. Reflexively chipper, he sometimes shrugs off the subject of his army service, having solely as soon as described to me a mission gone fatally incorrect — as impassively as if he have been recounting a time he bought caught within the rain.
The next day I watched “Remnant,” a digital collage that includes interviews and audio excerpts, engaging video and ace sound design. Primarily in regards to the vestiges of struggle, it’s charming however not all the time clear about what it means to say.
Directed by Rubén Polendo and conceived and created by Theater Mitu, “Remnant” is billed as an interactive expertise. (First introduced as a live performance, it was reimagined as a digital manufacturing throughout the pandemic, and is introduced right here by New York Theater Workshop.) As soon as you’re taking a digital step into this experimental theater house, you’re greeted with an invite — “Select a path to proceed” — and three clickable blocks. Every section is 20 minutes lengthy and totally different in model, however sadly the interactive a part of the present ends there.
Let’s say we’ve picked the primary path: the sounds of Jimi Hendrix’s distortion-heavy rendition of the nationwide anthem at Woodstock kick off a set of reflections on struggle.
Theater Mitu’s forged performs literary excerpts and interviews with previous and current troopers. That is accompanied by a visible hodgepodge — generally classic footage, generally shadowy, overlapping silhouettes, generally only a soldier’s fingers. The lead music and orchestration is by Ada Westfall, whose reedy vocals generally overtake the content material, and whose lyrics often steer the manufacturing into oversentimentality.
The second path brings us again to yesteryear with a cool Nineteen Sixties-style announcer. Playful and intriguing, the section makes use of the etymology of the phrase “remnant” as a jumping-off level for a postmodern seize bag of references to popular culture and mythology associated to the theme.
Segments from an previous cable-access present and commercials are intercut with a narrative from Egyptian mythology about an immortal chicken who lives inside every individual after which, in loss of life, returns to the heavens. There’s Arthurian legend and a sound loop of the physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer’s well-known quote of the Mahabharata: “Now I’m change into loss of life.”
After studying an excerpt from the Mahabharata the place the hero practically succumbs to his concern and grief whereas heading into battle, the announcer abruptly preens to the viewers, “It’s a spectacular seashore learn — and a fantastic companion whereas your close to and pricey lies in a hospital mattress subsequent to you.”
However the perform of irony right here is unclear, as is the manufacturing’s final stance on struggle and its troopers, who’re seen from a place of curiosity but in addition concern. Ought to we empathize? Condemn? Or is capturing the complexity of the problem itself the purpose?
As a result of for all of its factors of fascination, there may be an odd imbalance of focus in “Remnant,” which appears 70 p.c within the leftovers of struggle and 30 p.c fascinated about different examples of loss and residuals of catastrophe.
Take the third path, for instance: It begins and ends with us assuming the attitude of a stroke survivor making an attempt to speak by means of a system of blinking.
Right here we’re concentrating on the remnants of the physique: how the physique adjustments after loss of life, a girl’s interview along with her dying mom, a disconnected telephone sales space in Japan the place folks go to talk to their deceased family members. There are existential moments (“We concern loss of life as a result of we’re born understanding solely life”) in addition to conceptual ones (“Who has by no means killed an hour? Not casually or with out thought, however rigorously: a premeditated homicide of minutes”).
Regardless of its lopsided strategy, “Remnant” is absorbingly chameleonic. Alex Hawthorn’s sound design is pristine; headphones are required for this immersive aural expertise, which is textured with wealthy overlays, repetitions and loops.
After watching the present, I requested Jasper what remained with him after his service. He stated questions: about his beliefs, about our nation’s custom of violence.
“Remnant” captures features of this, however may go additional, and be extra well timed. On the finish, the manufacturing encourages us to submit ideas about our personal remnants. A model of the piece would possibly contemplate this: on the finish of 2020, even when we haven’t been at struggle, as such, we could all nonetheless really feel like remnants of disaster. We now have no selection however to maneuver ahead, to outlive.
By means of Nov. 24; nytw.org. Working time: 1 hour.