Sure, the great Houdini wiggled his way out of all sorts of complicated contraptions. But could he have found a path through the misery, fear and boredom that ensnare a person during an emergency hospital visit?
This is the daring getaway that John Kelly attempts in “The Escape Artist,” his new production at Performance Space 122. To do so, he doesn’t channel a magician but the Italian painter Caravaggio. The way to freedom lies through art, not rope tricks.
The chameleon Mr. Kelly has embodied all manner of historical heavyweights during his long career as a performance and visual artist. Here his approach is somewhat oblique. He spends most of the work flat on his back on a table, his thin frame kept rigid, portraying an artist who has suffered a trapeze accident while preparing for a show about Caravaggio. Now, his neck perhaps fractured, he lies in wait, immobilized save for his imagination.
This imagination bursts forth in song (original numbers by Mr. Kelly and Carol Lipnik, which tend toward the heavily rhymed, and covers, including a gorgeously intimate take on Monteverdi) and in a three-panel video backdrop. Designed by Jeff Morey and Mr. Kelly, these lush images, spliced with harsh interruptions by hospital workers, dive into Italian gardens and villas, speeding high above snow-covered landscapes and through nighttime cities. (The video was shot in locations as disparate as Hong Kong, Rome and the Park Avenue Armory.) ….. READ MORE ON NEW YORK TIMES