Arts & Events

THEATER REVIEW: 'Time Sensitive'—Ragged Wing Ensemble at the Sanctuary for the Arts

By Ken Bullock
Thursday May 02, 2013 - 08:55:00 PM

"You build up & up till you scrape the sky with your cutting edge ..."

("A view of the edge, the outer limits, the place where the city stops ... ")

"He just wanted to see the ground."

(A mogul, afraid of heights, in the penthouse of the tallest building, riding the fastest elevator down, while a daredevil elevator engineer skydives instead ... An aging watchmaker & his collection of clocks tended by The Kid, a mechanical man ... Shiny monks hefting blocks of ice, chanting a liturgy about Time ... The scams of a street couple ... An up-&-coming manager, hoping to pre-plan her family down to the nanosecond of her daily schedule ... )

All of the above, in their own separate vignettes, tableaux, finally converge when The Crack opens up to reveal the Dark Heart of the World ...

Ragged Wing Ensemble's new original, 'Time Sensitive,' written & directed by co-founder & artistic director Amy Sass, folds together the ingredients into a theatrical souffle that rises & rises ... Building on movement theater styles—& the ensemble movements are among the best this plucky little outfit has ever performed—the show seems to be a watershed for both the company—who'll move into their new home, Flight Deck, this Fall, at Telegraph & Broadway, the edge of Uptown. (Oakland, the only city without a Midtown!) —Not, as erroneously mentioned here before, the location of this show, an old Pentecostal church on the corner of Telegraph & 38th, fit stage for 'Time Sensitive,' literally in the sanctuary. 

The ensemble—Anthony Agresti, DiLecia Childress, Keith Cory Davis, Michele Owen, Annie Paladino, Soren Santos, Addie Ulrey, Liz Wand & Philip Wharton—deserve the applause of a rapt audience, after their meandering trip through the labyrinth of considering Time ... 

(It doesn't reduce that praise at all to single out Keith Davis, assistant director & core company director for Ragged Wing, always an engaging performer, for his meticulous mechanical stylization of The Kid, who—like Pinocchio, like a thousand other dreams of homunculi of wood, stone, steel, microchip—comes alive ... ) 

A great moment for the many of us who've followed the emergence of this ambitious & honest little troupe through their productions, free outdoor performances, educational initiatives over most of the past decade. 

If I have even a small criticism, it's the residue of "the symbolic" mode (versus, say, what Roland Barthes called the Obtuse, in his essay "The Third Meaning"—or the stylizations of Meyerhold—"The grotesque is the triumph of Form over Content ... mixing opposites ... not found together in Nature"—or of Artaud's "Theater of Cruelty," in Nietzche's sense) that still glazes a little of the considerable dynamism & specificity of this Non-Euclidean outpouring of movement & language, otherwise reminiscent of a Mannerist canvas or play—like Greco's "Christ Cleansing the Temple" or the shape-shifting of Marlowe & Shakespeare ... 

Ragged Wing's always been an East Bay company to watch. Now—& especially with their membership in the Network of Ensemble Theaters, with local troupes like foolsFURY, mugwumpin, Dell'Arte, the SF Mime Troupe,—they're on the verge of becoming crucial to the whole Bay Area scene. 

8 p. m. Thursday-Saturday through May 18, Sanctuary for the Arts, 496-38th Street @ Telegraph, Oakland. $25-$40. 1-800-316-8559;