Dimly Lit and Deeply Felt: Maurya Kerr's "WW"

Below is a review written on Maurya Kerr's MFA Thesis performance on June 20, 2016.

 

Maurya Kerr’s new WW invites the viewer to witness a personal moment of weakness while hinting at a desperate desire to transcend the limits of the body. Kerr’s fragile presence and murky lighting hold the audience in a viselike grip while creating an environment that suggests at any second, the vision may disappear.

At first glance, her choice of costume intrigues me: stirrup tights and a loose tank complement her long, fluid limbs but call forth a place and time that seem far removed from this intimate theater. Her dark brown wig creates a curtain of separation, allowing Kerr to avert her eyes and hide her face from the audience. In dim lighting, time slows as she traverses the stage languidly, humming a soft tune to herself and reaching repeatedly in different directions. I begin to feel like an unwitting voyeur, rather than an invited guest, peering closely into this moment of internal conflict and pain. As she reaches, relevés, and rolls in quick succession, I sense her searching to escape her current circumstances. Inevitably, she spirals and stumbles back into the deep vortex of her own misery, bringing the audience with her.

Midway through the piece, Kerr joins the audience with a slow, agonizing crawl into a chair set slightly apart. The lights dim further as she settles her body into the chair and stares back at the empty stage, humming a soft tune to herself. Unable to shake the vast emptiness staring back at her, she sheds her clothing and returns to center of the stage, naked.

In removing her protective layer of fabric, Kerr bares body and soul to her audience. As unwitting spectators in an exercise of self-loathing, we watch a woman give up her quest for transcendence and liberation. She writhes on the floor like a wounded creature, moving in silence with her own pain.

The experience escalates as we watch her obsessive return to reaches and rolls. On occasion, we see her haunted gaze through the curtain-like strands of the brown-haired wig. In her most desperate moment, she beats her chest in an act of self-flagellation, and I flinch as I empathize with her remorse and despair. As the lights slowly fade, we are left with the sound of fists hitting flesh, wondering if her self-punishment will ever end.