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January 15, 2018
Review: ‘The Hendrix Project’ at the Public’s Under the Radar Festival 2018
A scene from The Hendrix Project, running January 11-14 at BRIC House as part of The Public’s 14th Annual Under the Radar Festival. Photo Credit: Nicolas Savignano

New Year’s Eve, 1969. Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsies, an electric psychedelic blues trio, play a legendary show at the Fillmore East in New York City. The Hendrix Project, an experimental performance much like Hendrix’s own music, is an homage to the late great rock legend and that magical night when he ushered in a new decade for many young fans. It would also be Hendrix’s last New Year’s; he died of a drug overdose nine months later. Conceived and directed by Roger Guenveur Smith and presented by CalArts Center for New Performance, The Hendrix Project is playing at BRIC House as part of The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival.

Fifteen performers reenact the orgiastic experience of being a young person at a live rock concert at the end of the 1960s. With no dialogue, they move in near constant slow-motion, as though they are stuck in molasses while also being stoned. It’s a trippy juxtaposition: We, the audience, are watching another audience enjoying this experience as a live recording of the concert plays. The actors pantomime all the signs of being at a rock concert: clapping, cheering, dancing, smoking weed, making out with their fellow concert-goers. It almost makes you feel like you’re also high and at the show with these people.

The Hendrix Project wouldn’t be half as interesting if not for some great sound and video design by Marc Anthony Thompson. He uses footage and audio of the actual concert, including the epic 12-minute “Machine Gun,” so we can hear some of what the original audience experienced, what the performers on stage are trying to portray. Although not exactly like being there in person, nor is it like watching a recording of the show, it’s more like we are experiencing it through the lens of the performers. Suffice it to say, you should probably like the music of Jimi Hendrix if you want to enjoy this show.

The lighting design (Cameron Pieratt) is pure psychedelia; all purples and greens and blacklight. Scenic designer Levi Lack also takes a period approach to the set by covering it with posters declaring “War Is Over!” and “1969: The Year of the Panther.” The actors, clad in some amazing hippie counterculture outfits (costume design by Maggie Clapis), drape themselves over three tiers of stadium-style bleachers, and occasionally meander behind the screens that are projecting the concert footage, so there is a lot going on despite the slowness of the movements.

While the effect of watching The Hendrix Project is kind of like being in a drug-induced haze, it ends with the sobering realization that this is one of Hendrix’s final performance. And with that tragedy, the 1960s were truly over.

Connected Post:

Reviews: Under the Radar Roundup “The Gates: An Evening of Stories with Adam Gopnik,” “Antigonón, un Contingente Epico,” “Re-Member Me” and “Pursuit of Happiness”

By Jose Solis

The Gates: An Evening of Stories with Adam Gopnik The numbers 9 and 11 have held a special significance throughout Adam Gopnik’s life as a New Yorker. They were the dimensions of the first apartment he rented with his wife upon arriving in the city, a basement space they romantically named “Blue Room” as an ode to Rodgers and Hart’s tune. They were the date on which his daughter was born leading him to rethink his mission in the world, and as any New Yorker will tell you, they were also the date which led many of them to for the first time contemplate leaving the city. With his usual charm, wit and knack for perfect timing, Gopnik crafted a show that’s performance art, stand up, and unfiltered (but carefully thought out) storytelling. The connections he makes between seemingly unrelated events and people from his life are familiar to those who already love his writing, but watching him act these stories out, listening to his voice and tone shift from tenderness to a need for crowd pleasing, and witnessing his love for the city that became his home are a truly unique experience. Sitting at the Newman Theater inside The Public as Gopnik poured his heart, and brains, onstage was such …Read more

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Written by: Tami Shaloum
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