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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

This is, Or: The Wild Hunt for Home and Heart

It’s not really my wicket; the blood hot and bone raw wandering type theater grown from its performers and scattered across a landscape at great speed. I love it, but it’s not I wicket, mainly because it’s so difficult to preserve: the sense of intimacy, the visceral acts, the daring feats of personal risk you cannot ever breath to another soul because of the dictates of your conscious, respect for the performers, and (sometimes) fear of the ever watchful law. And so the creators of last years “Kids” (which was the perfect match between this same kind of intimacy and tangible storytelling) reunite one last time to give us This Is, a series of shared secrets, and candlestick theater, woven around the relation of one couple (Will Sonheim and Maddy Weinstein) and a brutal competition between three women (Natalie Houchins, Ella Pennington and Laura Winters) for the respect of one authority (Nick Day) and stories of loss and wondering by an ensemble of Daphne Kim, Sammy Zeisel, Abby Pajakowski, Dylan Pickus, Brandon Powers, and Anne Hollister who greet us with lights in darkness and bid us feel our roots.


Racing through the shrubbery like a pack of velociraptors, following some light or some story or some assemblage of weird chanting, pausing to catch our breath for acts of violence or danger or spooning (now with real spoons!) and intense flashlight flirting, I was struck by two thoughts. 1) actors please stop trying to kill each other though increasing trust stunts/pneumonia caught from rolling around on wet grass/egg shrapnel. 2) There are so many ways that this could be a tiresome exhaustive and irksome experience: shocking for the sake of being shocking, bold at the cost of generosity. It never was though, each of its artist’s was really doing their best to make us feel part of the pack, knitted for this hour only to their souls. If they made statements and risked their skins it was for points they felt worth risking for. It takes a special kind of brain to pull off so many such stunts but it takes a special kind of heart to beat life into all of them. It’s not my wicket but I would trust This Is, if not my physical safety, than at least the fledgling of my understanding. Like all it’s ilk it will have evaporated and gone, its creators sundered, and its secrets born shriveled and blown into corners like dry leaves. But for a moment, I was part of the pack, eagerly hunting after what next lesson or experiment I could lap up, and under the care and guidance of some brave dreamers, who took their own advice to “take time. You have so little of it. But take it anyway.”

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