I felt like a toddler about to have a melt down. This intense feeling that I was this close to bawling uncontrollably and reaching out my hand high for my Mommy to clasp. When did I last feel this way? When I was two, three, four? No, I remember, it was 2007, the last time I had attended Fuerzabruta, when I had experienced this very same overwhelmed sensation. And here I was back for seconds, having forgotten…
I was standing with my arms crossed, pelted by loud music and extremely kinetic visuals, overwhelmed by the noise and sensation and the nightmarish implications of what I was witnessing. A man in a white suit running faster and faster on a treadmill, running through walls that explode in a cloud of Styrofoam, running past business attired pedestrians falling off the treadmill into the void, futilely attempting to keep tables and chairs from cascading over the cliff, and finally collapsing after a gun shot leaves his white suit bloodstained.
And my arms were crossing, my face muscles quaking, my eyes wide and considering tears, as my body even more so than my intellect became convinced it had been dropped inside a nightmare come to life, designed and stage managed by the fun house demon spawn of Kafka and Magritte.
I was invited to attend Fuerzabruta: Warya, expecting a whole new iteration of Fuerzabruta. And although there are new set pieces and sensations added to this version in 2014, at least half the show is the Fuerzabruta I experienced in 2007. Fuerzabruta is unlike most theatrical experinces in that the audience stands throughout in a large space, and must move about (as directed by the crew) as various set pieces are moved in and about. Much of the action happens above the audience. Fuerzabruta is also unique in allowing and even encouraging taking cell phone pictures (which as you can see here I did, but only for a few sections, like the water nymphs and wind tunnel man).
Most people rightfully react with joyous enthusiasm to the visceral, kinetic, gravity-defying action. The dancers dangling from high, flying over the audience, chasing another horizontally across the walls, the propulsive, drum and chant and electronica infused music, the wild limb-flinging dancing. It’s all terribly exciting.
But there is as much existential angst as exhilarating joy laced into these set pieces, if not more. After all, Fuerzabruta means Brute Force. The running man bursting through walls doesn’t look triumphant but desperate. The women chasing each other sideways across the walls are not laughing with joy but screaming with anger and frustration. The male and female dancer suspended horizontally off the two sides of what looks like an enormous sideways two-sided twirling trampoline (one of the set pieces not originally part of the 2007 show), were shouting incomprehensibly at the audience, as if imploring us to do something, Do Something! Imagine the acrobats of a demented Cirque de Soleil calling out to the big top audience to rescue them from their collective nightmare.
Luckily, not all of Fuerzabruta goes the nightmare route. The water nymphs splashing above the audience are mostly playful and happy. Although even they sometimes hit the plastic floor/ceiling above the audience’s heads with alarming aggression. (As alluring as the loosely clad swimmers were, I did wonder why no men were included in this particular set piece. Is the reason a safety issue regarding weight limits, or something a little more sexist?)
Another new set piece involved characters dangling down through holes in a billowing ceiling, picking up (pre-selected) audience members and taking them back up with them into the “heavens” above. This section also is played more for joy than angst, and climaxes with one man vertically suspended upside down in a wind tunnel.
In fact, by the second half Fuerzabruta: Warya embraces carnival like joy and leaves the existential angst mostly behind, to the relief of my hyper-sensitive nerves. When one of the very charismatic and very excited dancers milling through the crowd gestured his intention to smash a Styrofoam plank over my head, I happily obliged by leaning forward toward him. The plank exploded over my head in a burst of Styrofoam shrapnel and billows of white confetti that had been hidden inside the plank, and the crowd roared its approval.