BLACK MARIA-1987 HOME
FIVE SCREEN FILM, COLOR, 1 HOUR
PRESENTED AT LA MAMA, NYC
(BLACK MARIA TEXT EXCERPT)
CALVADOS: You gotta go now.
WANDER ; No, I don’t wanna go.
ESTHER: You like it here?
WANDER: It’s my home.
STONE: This ain’t no home.
JANE: It’s a prison.
CATLIN: A leper colony.
CALVADOS: A horse farm.
ESTHER: A basement house.
STONE: You don’t like it here.
JANE: You got to go out.
Can’t stay here no more.
CATLIN: You gotta go.
CALVADOS: You ain’t sick. You gotta go before you get sick.
WANDER: Where I go?
ESTHER: Go out there. Just out. Out to the paradise land.
WANDER: I like the desert land.
STONE: Go, go out.
JANE: You got to go now.
WANDER: But why you cut my hair?
CATLIN: We got to cut your hair. Make you look right.
WANDER: I don’t look right ?
I don’t look right to you?
CALVADOS: You take the horse.
WANDER: The horse come back. You see.
ESTHER: You take the horse.
You both go.
STONE: You both never come back.
JANE: You never come back. You see.
WANDER: I come back. You see.
CATLIN: You come back, you die here in the desert land.
WANDER: But why you cut my hair?!
CALVADOS: We got to save your life.
WANDER: Life is a cannibal. It eats itself.
ESTHER: That’s why you gotta go now. We fix you nice, you see. So they don’t think you crazy rotten like us.
WANDER: But I like crazy rotten.
STONE: You go now.
JANE: Everything broken here.
CATLIN: You have to hurry up and get out now.
CALVADOS: You go now but you remember . You ours.
ESTHER: Ours by right of conquest.
WANDER: Right. By right of conquest
JANE: You go. You never come back.
CATLIN:You go and you go and if you find nothing then you walk on.
CALVADOS: In a different direction until you find something.
ESTHER: You see a cameraman and you run. Don’t let him see you.
STONE: But you don’t stop.
JANE: You take the horse. It’s a natural beauty. You’ll see.
CATLIN: You see a pinhole and you run for it.
CALVADOS: If the horse don’t fit through, you leave it behind.
ESTHER: Do you understand?
STAGE: 'BLACK MARIA,' A PLAY OF FILM
By MEL GUSSOW
Published: April 14, 1987
ENTERING La Mama Annex, rearranged to accommodate John Jesurun's ''Black Maria,'' one immediately wonders where the stage is. The seats are facing in all directions and fill the floor space. The fact is there is no stage. With ''Black Maria,'' Mr. Jesurun has moved a step beyond ''Deep Sleep'' and ''White Water,'' the previous plays in his theater-movies-television cycle. This time, the audience is surrounded by movie screens, four of them as walls and one as ceiling. There are no live actors; the ''play'' is entirely on film.
Soon the screens are overflowing with vivid images - of actors and landscapes, both interior and exterior. As in the earlier plays, the actors speak to one another across the heads of theatergoers. We are thrown into the middle of a mystery, a threatening story that has something to do with a lonely house in the country, a leper colony, an escaped convict and a missing, perhaps dead horse. ''Black Maria'' could be called a case of habeas equus.
Clues fly as quickly as the crosscut images, but we never completely decipher the solution. This, however, should not stop one from enjoying the intricacy of the journey. Perhaps the key to the show is in the title. ''Black Maria'' refers doubly to a police van carrying away culprits and to Thomas Edison's movie studio.
Outdistancing Christopher Isherwood, Mr. Jesurun is apparently saying, ''I am a projector as well as a camera.'' There are frequent photographic and cinematic references, including the suggestion by one of the characters that what we see is ''my own private idea,'' with the pun on the last word intended.
Our eyes are transfixed by the waves of pictures passing back and forth and above our heads. Quite casually, without drawing attention to his action, one actor on film steps from one screen to another. At another point, characters on all four screens sit down to an elegant dinner. They address one another across the table, giving a theatergoer the strange sensation of feeling like the centerpiece.
The view from ground level, looking up at the screens, is the equivalent of sitting in the front row of a movie theater - or, rather, four front rows simultaneously. Swiveling our heads to keep track of the images and the voices, sometimes we seem to choose the wrong screen. A voice is coming from the other side of the theater. Actually, no screen is ''wrong.'' Even when there is no one speaking, there is a field, the sky, perhaps a distant moon - or a mysterious pinprick of light.
Occasionally there are pictures of paintings and painters (such as Picasso). Discussing art, one character says, ''You never know what happens in the next moment of the picture'' -after the painter has put down his brush. A painting is, in effect, time standing still.
As a theater artist, Mr. Jesurun forms a graphic composition, and it stands, enigmatically, by itself. We have no idea what his next move will be. Sometimes the fast-moving dialogue adds to the conundrum. Other times it is absurdly humorous, as in Black-Eyed Susan's announcement that an Indian woman is in prison for ''killing and scalping my mother and father - who could blame her?''
On the technical side, Mr. Jesurun - author, director and designer - is ingenious, shifting from long shot to extreme close-up, panning vistas so that we seem to be in a moving vehicle and, with his multidimensional sound system, planting voices throughout the environment. At one crucial point in his drama, he suddenly appears to burn his film. Though one might question the substance of Mr. Jesurun's work, the style and the mastery of form stamp him as innovative. The principal unanswered question is how to define his medium. A Step Beyond BLACK MARIA, written, directed and designed by John Jesurun; line producer, Richard Connors; cinematography, Mr. Connors and Curt Rosen; technical director, Jim Coleman; sound, Mr. Coleman; assistant technical director, Kate Yourke; set manager, Brad Phillips. Presented by La Mama E.T.C., 74A East Fourth Street. Stone, XLarry Tighe CalvadosBlack-Eyed Susan JuanitaJane Smith WanderMichael Tighe EstherSanghi Wagner CatlinHelena White MangasJun Maeda