Worlds clashing, memories losing their iridescent hue, a blend of nightmares, the overflowing frustration of a man attempting to resurrect the essence of his wife, the vulnerability and passionate nature of a woman made up the hurricane of emotions that was set loose on stage.

Both Projects for the Living by Robin Neveu Brown and Not Leading Lady Material by Megan Morse Jans successfully conveyed the desperation and fragile beauty of human emotions and struggles, guiding whomever was present for the explosion either with a gentle touch or with a gale wind.

Projects for the Living was a hazy, frightening, exhilarating and striking journey to say the very least.

The performance began with a mason jar, vintage paper and a huddle of confused people shuffling around the lobby of The Clarice, waiting to walk into Kogod Theater.

It wasn’t your typical sit-down-comfortably-and-stare-at-the-art type of act.

Photo courtesy of Zachary Handler.
Photo courtesy of Zachary Handler.

It was the complete opposite.

From the start, you’re asked to unearth memories and write them on a slip of paper even if you were unwilling to share them.

The paper was your fee — if you didn’t cut out a part of your soul and tape it to the sliver of paper, you were denied entrance.

My paper read: “I feed on memories. You must now pay the toll. Please provide one part of memory that lies in your throat.”

I scrawled a painful memory, dropped it into my mason jar and waited to enter.

The host for both performances, Kevin Alan, a Washington D.C. actor and husband to Projects creator Brown, plunged into the crowd and began to passionately speak about “his broken machine.”

He declared we must help him make it whole once more.

That’s when I wanted to bolt.

I was suddenly at the palm of this possible madman who needed my aid in something I knew nothing of.

After being placed into a group, I entered the first section of this world, surrounded by books and a piano, which one of the dancers was draped over, observing each person as they passed her.

Visitors began to touch everything: the books, the looking glass under the desk, the foreign coins and the haunting photographs scattered and tucked into the bookshelves as if they were hidden.

Sounds of drowning, metal cackling, frantic fights, the long rip of paper, filled my ears. I could even hear people throwing stones into a well.

The sounds surrounded me, stitching me into someone else’s nightmare.

“It looked like a memory to me,” said Christina O’Brien, a sophomore pursuing a double major in dance and biology. “I didn’t feel like I was intruding. But I felt like they didn’t want to tell me anything.”

At one point you stared at creatures behind a curtain, their feet were the only thing visible, but they were the only thing you needed to see.

Intimate, desperate, deadly.

I didn’t know if a hungry sexual encounter was unfolding or if acts of physical abuse were taking place— sounds of the woman hitting the man in the chest repeatedly, seeing her feet rise and float from the floor.

Was she hung? Was her lover embracing her? Was he sedating her?

Questions sparked and faded as I was led across the inter-workings of the machine.

Watching some of the audience members follow Alan’s instructions made me think of Nazi Germany as I felt discomfort pulsing from the crowd.

Alan was their fanatical leader, convincing the audience to execute certain tasks in order for his overall goal to be fulfilled.

But no one knew that until the end.

“The darkness [of the play] made me a bit uncomfortable, but it projects reality,” said Gloria Kim, a freshman letters and sciences student. “It helps us understand our own sense of humanity.”

The conclusion came with a rush of memories.

Alan said “I remember … ” indulging in the past, remembering his wife and the certain things she did or how she made him feel.

Robin Neveu Brown stood, danced and withered before us as her husband, Alan, flipped through the chronicles of his past – a man only able to remember his love in the darkness, with his otherworldly machine clicking around him.

As he announced his machine was unsuccessful once more and his wife had faded away, the lyrics of Gold by Imagine Dragons fluttered through my mind.

I’m dying to feel again, again or anything at all.

Alan disappeared under the flare of blinding lights.

A 15-minute intermission was wedged in between both performances, allowing the audience to attempt to sift through the events that had unfolded.

Not Leading Lady Material wasn’t woven by trauma or an untamable darkness.

It was the complete opposite, the ethereal yet powerful moon to the chaotic and haunting sun.

With her robe flaunting massive feathered sleeves and a manner that oozed everlasting confidence, Megan Morse Jans prowled into the theater, which was now set-up like a jazz club.

Her provocative manner and enchanting nature remained consistent throughout the show as Jans unveiled three personas.

She portrayed a highly feminine and tongue-in-cheek performer, with seductive moves and a velvet voice; the masculine and aggressive side of a woman who doesn’t want to acknowledge the storm rampaging through her life; the vulnerable, yet tenacious mother, who realizes the growth of her son.

She sang in German and crooned in French, the language of love.

It was refreshing to see a kaleidoscope of a woman be as comfortable in an elegant black dress as she is in a full suit a lá Charlie Chaplin or only in a bra and bloomers.

“She told her stories, and those were her own personal stories,” Alison Lynch, senior biology major, said. “She was herself.”

With an endless supply of humor — stories of her son walking in on “rude sex” and mishaps in the theater business — the show blended quirkiness and the profound chambers of the human heart.

Which are far more complex and dangerous than you may ever imagine.

headshotKarla Casique is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at karlacasique@hotmail.com.

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