By ERIC GRODE
Published: December 21, 2010
"Korach," an ambitious but flawed parable by the legendary downtown
impresario Judith Malina, explores the travails of anarchists over
the millenniums. "We will lose every battle except the last one,"
announces Emma Goldman in one of the play's time-hopping video re-enactments.
By focusing instead on a battle from biblical times the dissension
among the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert and the
retribution these dissenters suffered at the hands of Moses Ms.
Malina, who also directs, and her disciplined cast of more than two
dozen latch onto a charged narrative that makes up for in beatific
earnestness what it lacks in nuance.
The declamatory, pageantlike performance style prevents much in the
way of audience identification, and the historical videos fall flat.
(Literally flat: the videos are projected all but unintelligibly on the floor.)
Still, Ms. Malina, a co-founder of the storied Living Theater nearly
two-thirds of a century ago, has forgotten more than most of today's
genre-mixing young guns will ever know, and her rigorous eye for
stage pictures abetted by Carlo Altomare's intricate moves for the
ensemble is evident throughout "Korach." These include the eerie
use of a blood-spattered sheet to depict a character's affliction
with leprosy and an almost Kabuki-like grapple between Moses (Tom
Walker) and the rebellious title character (Jerry Goralnick), who
This being the Living Theater, the audience-performer divide blurs at
the end, as cast members cajole one and all into standing, dancing,
joining hands and vocalizing with them. It takes moxie to cap off a
piece about the doomed but necessary act of dissent with enforced
participation, even genially enforced participation.
At the performance I attended, however, one lone audience member
refused to join in, hunching defiantly in her seat as the coercive
love-in burbled on all sides. The battle continues.
"Korach: The Biblical Anarchist" continues through Feb. 28 at the
Living Theater, 21 Clinton Street, near Houston Street, Lower East
Side; (212) 352-0255 or livingtheatre.org.