Surrender. (Theater Artaud, San Francisco, California) (R
Porges, Maria, Artforum International
Although billed as "environmental theater," Lauren Elder's immensely ambitious multi-disciplinary performances encompass far more than mere drama. Like her earlier work Off Limits, 1989, Surrender is a sprawling, archetypal story with a narrative thread that twists into knots at times, guiding the audience from event to dream to memory, but always wandering back to the story at hand. This temporal movement is echoed by the frequent physical relocation of both players and audience in and around the hangar-sized space of the theater. Surrender also shifts from spoken text to singing, chanting, and instrumental interludes.
The story, roughly speaking, is about Tom, a test pilot who negligently crashes his jet in the Nevada desert, killing his co-pilot and best friend, Petey. After encountering a young bike-riding Chicano boy at the crash site, Tom meets some very interesting characters who have chosen to live out in the middle of nowhere: a philosophical Russian archaeologist and former cosmonaut; a dreamily poetic Middle-Eastern astronomer; and a black woman gifted with formidable powers of healing and intuition. Tom's encounters with each of these men and women, as well as a supporting cast of ghosts (Petey as well as Tom's mother and father) are punctuated with sound and movement by separate male and female choruses.
From the first, Surrender drew in the audience, making it clear that the questions being asked were ones that all of us will have to find an answer for, sooner or later, within ourselves. These issues range from war resistance to wartime killing, from the loss and loneliness experienced by the families of soldiers, to the effects of radiation on the flora and fauna of the desert. Tom's rigidity is confronted and eventually softened by what he sees, hears, and finally comes to accept: that he must take responsibility for his actions. …