In Panorama (presented by La MaMa) characters morph into one another in defiance of actuality or stage convention. The show begins with 17 video clips of actors introducing themselves, and as the play proceeds we meet seven of them on stage. That upstage video projection is always active, and sometimes it’s the actor on stage whose image is projected - they're always being videoed onstage, and sometimes they take video selfies. They’re always talking directly to us, usually one at a time. There are smaller video screens on the sides of the wide, empty stage that sometimes echo the large, upstage screen and sometimes don’t.
The performers don’t act in the strict sense; they present their real selves to us. One met Charles Manson; one is from Turkey; one used to be on drugs. The script is made up fragments of narrative from their actual lives - that’s why it’s so extraordinary that they morph into one another. A black woman talks about the first time she was called a “chink”. Later she tells us she was tortured in Turkey, although it’s another actress who’s Turkish. We are all one another, the play tells us.
The play makes its points about minority identification very well. One actress explains that she was told “Do not dress like a refugee.” Then she takes off her clothes and says, without a trace of resentment, “I’m not dressed like a refugee any more.” It’s very nice.
At its best, this show is delicate and suggestive in the best sense. Unfortunately, it’s not always at it’s best. More often it’s unsubstantial. There’s a strong, interesting concept, but no overall structure. It lacks irony. The actors merely say what they mean; the script lacks complexity. Only one young man confesses to any failings, and it’s the show’s best moment.
At some moments it’s pointless, as when an actor who’s naked for no reason at all enters, playing a guitar and singing - sort of - “Heartbreak Hotel”.
Panorama was devised and directed by Enrico Casagrande and Daniela Nicola with the talented actors of The Great Jones Repertory Company. Let’s hope that they develop their intriguing concept further.