Over the past four weeks, theater collective Implied Violence has built and performed three ambitious shows in a massive warehouse that used to be a repair station for the waterfront trolley. Each was a gigantic, messy spectacle about the primal side of life—the title of the final installment, which closes August 16, is Eat Fight Fuck.
That warehouse has seen a lot of action this month: two orchestras, several rock bands, Civil War costumes, marching-band uniforms, Busta Rhymes raps, pitchers of fake blood, a little real blood, interpolations of dance and text about the tempestuous life of an everygirl named Barley Girl, people suffocating each other with plastic wrap and buckets of water, jackhammers demolishing chunks of cement, bricks of ice stacked into tall walls, sheaves of wheat, and a fleet of live chickens that, over the course of the trilogy, have grown from pullets to flying size.
It's not punk-rock theater—though the company looks like a pack of punk dandies, all tattoos and suit vests—it's heavy-metal theater. The work is dense and virtuosic, fun and frightening, like somebody might get hurt. On purpose. Implied Violence makes experimental theater that is (almost always) the opposite of pretentious. Wherever they perform—usually in fields, warehouses, and other abandoned spaces—you can feel the charge in the air. You can tell they mean it. Exactly what they mean is more difficult to say, which is why so much writing about Implied Violence descends into lists of images from their performances. The images are so dramatic and improbable, they set the brain on fire.
Watching the triptych has been exhilarating and exhausting—you could feel the energy draining from the company as the weeks wore on. The first installment, BarleyGirl, was a big bang of carefully choreographed chaos. The second installment, Versus, was a meditation on images from BarleyGirl, with more music and dance. By the third installment, which opened last weekend, Implied Violence seemed tired. (One of their actors, Neil Fannin, was actually, torturously tired—he's staying up for 96 hours as part of the performance.) For once, Implied Violence has stretched itself too thin. Eat Fight Fuck lacks IV's typical rigor and feels like aborted potential: It begins with a truck backing into the space that disgorges actors and then goes unused. The Joker, from Batman, makes a lame appearance. One man keeps shouting, "I want to fuck a baby!" All shock, no value.
But a tired IV is still better than most: Two weeks ago, a 16-member panel of artists chose Implied Violence for a fall residency at Robert Wilson's Watermill Center on Long Island. Among the panelists: P.S.1 director Alanna Heiss, Opéra National de Paris manager Gérard Mortier, and novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. Compared to the Watermill, the Stranger Genius Award we just gave IV seems a little paltry.