Corrections or additions?
This Broadway review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1
Newspaper on July 15, 1998. All rights reserved.
New York Review: `Villa Villa’
The walls of the lobby of the new Daryl Roth Theater
that serves as a holding space before entry is allowed into the
area for the performance piece, "Villa Villa" (pronounced
vee-ja vee-ja) by Argentina’s De La Guarda company, are painted in
bold, garish graffiti. A few minutes before the show starts, the
is herded into a large tented space without seats. Somewhat resembling
a link to an imagined Black Hole of Calcutta, the space is notable
for its enveloping black canvas sides, enclosed canopy ceiling, and
shiny black floor.
Huddled en masse, the audience gazes upward as eerie flying shadows
can be detected, zooming and zig-zagging overhead. As the light is
raised, the space begins to reveal the strange, moving and
shapes as human flyers. With our eyes fixed on the flyers, who can
now be seen attached to cables and wires, we watch these aerialists
who, like space-invaders, suddenly begin to plunge directly into the
crowd and occasionally abduct and fly off with an unsuspecting (we
It is comforting to know that those who leave the earth come back,
as do hundreds of balloons and streams of confetti, all of which
through slits and holes in the undulating firmament. This carnival
atmosphere is short-lived, as a terrifying wind now forces the
into another huddle. This, as bolts of lightning flash, ear-shattering
thunder shakes the room, and torrential pockets of rain fall mostly
on some new visitors who have begun to populate the space with
gymnastic and acrobatic stunts. Those in attendance seemed prepared
to get sprayed by the windswept water.
Strobe lights are used to affect our vision. But we are nevertheless
curious about this weird looking and sounding company of performers
who dive amongst us, stomp to the rhythm of pounding drums, and scream
out a mixture of primitive dialogue and primal song. Certain members
of the company take on the characteristics of insects and other flying
non-humans, notably those hoisted and heaved about by pulleys, chains,
and ropes. Some take particular delight in being slammed again and
again into the billowing canvas walls. This starts the audience
Otherwise, those who frenetically chase each other up and down the
walls and embrace each other in passionate ritualistic encounters
rather mesmerize us. I’m not sure what this unusual spectacle means.
I am sure that I didn’t like standing for an hour in a very hot room.
Perhaps I was envious of the one performer who apparently cools off
by flying through the air ass bared. Although there is a lot of neck
strain involved, the episodic entertainment provided by the De La
Guarda troupe is not designed to strain the intellect. The mostly
young audience seemed to get a charge from all the yelling and
This one-hour immersion experience may appeal to those who long to
see someone else climb the walls for a change. HH
— Simon Saltzman
at 15 Street. $45. Tele-Charge, 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.
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