Go Deeper

Reaction: Marianela Boán’s Voyeur

Posted September 7th, 2007

In Voyeur, by Cuban choreographer Marianela Boán, dancers Bethany Formica and Scott McPheeters live inside a plastic playhouse. Restless and agitated with one another, Formica and McPheeters manage their marital dysfunction by avoiding each other around the house. Like fish in a coral reef, they dive and loop in and out of the doors, windows, and roof of their home, periodically considering an exit, but never taking it.

<%image(20070907-voyeur bigger.jpg|250|193|null)%>They do their best to avoid one another, but they occasionally use each others’ bodies for support. From three cameras that have been set up on each side of the stage, video is projected onto an upstage screen, so that the audience can see what’s happening from other angles.

When McPheeters manages to exit the house, Formica makes a phone call. “There is a biological and chemical attack imminent,” she says. “You have twenty minutes to prepare. Seal all room openings, doors, and windows with plastic sheeting and duct tape.” Formica begins to panic; clearly, McPheeters represents the attack. But this is also a clever play on post-9/11 paranoia. The bright yellow plastic house and the tiny white picket fence surrounding it become funnier, and yet somehow more real.

Things begin to escalate. Formica loses control of her body: she perches in one window, her legs spread apart. McPheeters pushes her legs together and brings her hands into a prayer position—she tries to hold it, but she can’t. Her legs fling open; she salutes like a soldier; she assumes a sexy pose; she exposes herself. She tries to keep her legs together, but it’s impossible: they just need to be apart.

McPheeters locates a tangled mass of yellow caution tape in one corner of the room. He temporarily mends the situation by tying her wrists together. Soon, both dancers (and the house) are tied up. They sputter, shriek, and spew frenetic gibberish—their intonation and gestures are an exaggerated version of a dispute that you probably had with your significant other once, except here, the words just don’t come out.

When they finally wriggle free, things melt back into place. They have a gorgeous, syrupy moment in which they suddenly appear to be actors on set for a Febreze commercial. As they tidy and freshen the house together, they gaze at each other fondly. Buena Vista Social Club fades in and they begin move their hips in a smooth little lovebird dance. Each holds a pink plastic lawn flamingo and the flamingoes become part of the dance. Everything is rosy as could be. And then the flamingoes begin to fight, soon dragging Formica and McPheeters back to where they began.

The story continues, but I won’t. Boan has created a marvelous blend of play and reality here, and the dancers carry it out with great character and agility. During each performance, three audience members will be invited to operate the onstage cameras; the projections will be determined by the audience, rather than the artists. So the voyeur is you. I suggest that you see Voyeur, and maybe even be a voyeur. You’ll enjoy it.

Click here to purchase tickets for Voyeur.