I previously mentioned that I was excited to go see Patterns, a multi-media solo performance by Amy Munz. The performance has now opened and I went to see it a few days ago. I had mixed feelings about the performance but saw some things that I really liked and felt like I was sitting in the midst of a lot of potential that I’m excited about.
Patterns is an experimental solo performance in two parts in which Amy plays a variety of different characters. She has very few props so it’s all about what she can do on the stage. Except, however, that her stage performance is supplemented by three screens (front, left and center) which each play different images. Sometimes there is voiceover recording as well.
The Bad News
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first, since it’s true that there were things I didn’t like about the performance. The main thing was that I couldn’t latch on to a coherent story line, which made it difficult to maintain interest in the performance for the duration. In fact, I’m horrified to say that more than half of the audience left at the intermission and nobody stayed for the Q&A that was offered at the end. (I would have liked to stay but I didn’t want to be the only person who stayed so I didn’t. It was awkward.)
The play’s program explained that it was a play about love and questions surrounding love that we all deal with in our lives. However, I never got that out of the narrative. If I’d had to guess on my own, I would have actually thought I was seeing a story about e woman with mental illness trying to connect her different parts. There wasn’t enough differentiation in the stories for the people to seem truly separate and there wasn’t enough of a storyline for me to know what was going on.
But The Good News
Despite the lack of a storyline to sink my teeth into, I saw a ton of potential for something really interesting here and I was fascinated by Munz’s vision. She is currently trying to open her own performance space that would incorporate the kind of multimedia theatre that we get a sneak peek into here. I think that our ability to see it fully realized was hindered by budget/ space issues but I loved the effects and hope she can get her space to really show off this idea.
For example, in some cases, there would be a visual story happening on the left and right screens, with two lovers who were separated – each one on one screen, facing each other with the audience in the middle. In this space, the screens felt small and it was hard to really see everything so the effect was minimized. But there was something amazing about it. I was thinking that if the design was set up more like a planetarium, where you can easily see all parts of the screen while you’re in the center, then the effect would be much more impactful.
There was also a lot that I liked about Munz’s performance. I loved her physicality; she was able to take up the entire stage with her voice and physical presence so that you felt like you were watching a big production even though it was a solo performance without big props or costumes. That’s a talent. And I felt like she really gave her all to the characters even though it didn’t always work for me in the end.
There were also experimental stage choices she made that I really enjoyed. She chimed her real time voice to match her recorded audio voice in some parts, which had a cool effect. She turned a chair away from the audience and spoke towards the back of the stage, which was a risky choice and one that worked for the particular scene she was setting.
Honestly, the biggest feeling that I got was that this woman has amazing creativity, intelligence and potential and although it wasn’t all realized completely for me in this production I’m really excited to keep an eye on the arc of her career. I think that this play foreshadows things that she’ll be doing in the years to come that will be impressive, attention-getting and headline-worthy.
I guess maybe what I was left feeling here was that Munz bit off a little bit more than she could chew. I felt like every single element of the play was experimental – from the lines to the characters to the stage choices to the multimedia layout to the edginess of the videos themselves … and perhaps it would have benefited from simplicity in certain areas in order to highlight the experimental impact in other areas. But all in all, I felt that you could see this massive potential.
I think it’s worth checking out if you’re interested in experimental theatre, want to be on the cutting edge of what cool artists are doing in San Francisco, are comfortable with blurry story lines and enjoy small intimate spaces with solo performances.