My review of Bill T. Jones’s “Reading, Mercy and the Artificial Nigger” is in the Chronicle today:
“Jones has never hesitated to push buttons, but that titular “Nigger” is not his own invention. It comes from Flannery O’Connor’s disturbingly ironic short story “The Artificial Nigger,” which Jones has adapted faithfully and with arresting intensity.
This is not the kind of fragmented pastiche you might expected of a postmodernist like Jones; the story is not sliced and diced and rearranged into some kind of meta-text, but read aloud in a straightforward, smart abridgement by Jones himself and, on opening night, his sister Rhodessa . . .
Five pairs of dancers enact the narrative, their movements mimicking the rhythms of speech or suggesting dialogue, but never outright miming the action. But Jones’ simple, profound twist in the staging is this: He has each of his dancers — black, white, Asian, Latino, male and female — portray Mr. Head and Nelson in turn, and trade off playing the secondary characters, too. ”
In a very different vein, I was just as taken by the odd formal majesties of Jones’s “There Were . . .”, though I didn’t have space to write about the piece. It’s a great program. If you can get to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts tonight or tomorrow, I recommend catching it.