Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Architecting

The TEAM
Performance Space 122, New York City
(2009)

Production photo

A main image of Architecting is a grand cathedral, with smaller structures - a single building, a housing development, Margaret Mitchell's Tara - taking prominent places among the locations and subjects of discussions inhabited by the play's characters. The man-made structures, whether they be physical buildings or works of art, overcome the natural landscape, which in turn becomes a thing to be tamed - or a creature which, in the case of Hurricane Katrina, has destroyed the best laid plans of the country's inhabitants.

Produced with major collaborative effort (although still helmed by Rachel Chavkin's direction), perhaps it shouldn't surprise audiences that TEAM's latest work questions the nature of authorship and whether the auteur can create relevant work in today's world. With the emergence of social networking and meta-textuality as the birthing ground of innovative works (a recent New York Magazine article on Twitter pointed out how that website's creators view the sum of everyone's individual tweets and feeds create a larger piece through which a more accurate portrayal of society can be reached), Architecting points out the so called most perfect piece of architecture in the world is a building for which no single architect or author can be named.

Architecting is a dense work, with a storyline that defies linear description, but here is an attempt to provide just that: A woman's father dies and she goes to New Orleans to help fulfill his vision of a rebuilt neighborhood. She arrives in a bar to take shelter in a hurricane, and meets (along with a former Harvard professor and the local chanteuse) Margaret Mitchell. Meanwhile, a white Hollywood Producer decides the time has come to remake Gone with the Wind, and brings a black director with him to revitalize the story - with or without Ms. Mitchell's understanding and approval. The strength and humanity of "Peggy"'s manuscript, which the director has never before read, rehabilitates her description of a post-slavery Atlanta in his eyes, and he tries to make the film over in a way that displays her vision, rather than the sanitized version the white Hollywood exec thinks would sell better. While all this is going on, Scarlett O'Hara takes on a life of her own, and a white-trash girl heads to New Orleans (where the film is being shot) to try and prove that she is Scarlett, picking up an effeminate gas station attendant on her way and ultimately losing the competition to him. The woman whose father was rebuilding the neighborhood decides to preserve a single family home within the larger Phoenix development (which might still be in New Orleans, or may have moved in space and time to Atlanta, Georgia), and Margaret Mitchell writes a self-contained sequel wherein the son of the family who once owned the house returns and razes the family home to the ground in a final act to reclaim what was once his.

Sound complicated? It is. But Architecting is also a work of deep humanity and large questions, and TEAM once again proves they are not afraid to set out on an epic journey in their efforts to discover the real America. In the process, they bring out one of the greatest failings of the new, collaborative culture of live art - that once a performance is over, it is gone forever, and only by participating in art (and life) as it happens can one experience all the joy it has to offer.

Philip Fisher reviewed this production at the Barbican Pit

Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody