Robbie Short

I’m sitting at a cafe sipping my sparkling apple sangria — that tastes and looks suspiciously like milk — out of a tiny, quarter-filled plastic cup. The room suddenly darkens. Two figures shuffle out into the cleared space before me. One of them, a girl, carries a folding chair without a back which she opens and sets down a few feet away from me. She positions herself onto it. Meanwhile the other figure, unidentifiable and coated in darkness, moves to the other side of the stage.

There’s the sound of delicately crinkled plastic. Then silence.

A projector illuminates the back wall with a video of the shore. The waves rush onto the beach in slow motion, as if delaying their imminent demise. I can hear and feel the rush of the water, eerie and ethereal. A flashlight clicks on; its beam, shining through yellow gel, crosses the stage to land on the girl. She lies still, back up, stomach down, in a contorted position between the two metal bars of the chair where the backing should be attached. Her expression betrays death, the lighting, decay.

A figure appears in the back left of the stage, all gangly limbs and ghastly expression. The projected image sticks to his body, creating a shadow of his form across the shore. He walks slowly, painstakingly, across the stage in a diagonal path; behind him, the waves slow ever more. His arms swivel in slow motion and his visage fluctuates from mildly afflicted to agonized, while his legs move almost jaggedly beneath him.

As he disappears into the Cimmerian shade to the right of the stage, the vignette ends and my glimpse into that lonely, drowsy world vanishes.

As Yale’s only experimental theatre ensemble, The Control Group provides a singular experience: it captures dreams and presents them to you, or so it seems.

Their current show, “Alan Rickman Stole My Face: Slindus” — a title which I found did not relate to its content — is comprised of a string of vignettes with no apparent narrative or intention.

Having never seen experimental theatre before, I walked into the Calhoun Cabaret Wednesday night without expectation. The seats were arranged cafe-style around tables on which lay a paper drink menu.

Within a few minutes, the group members drifted out, each clothed in nothing but a gray ribbed tank and equally gray men’s underwear, a white tucked-in cloth meant to emulate a server’s costume. Glittery half-masks concealed their eyes.

They came to each table, took the viewers’ orders, disappeared to a back room, and emerged with identical plastic cups filled with white liquid regardless of the original request. My sparkling apple sangria was obviously not composed of the ingredients listed on the menu, but did that make it any less of an apple sangria? The performance begged the question.

The show similarly defies expectation. It’s disjointedly fluid, with scenes oozing into each other without any apparent connection. The only consistency lies with the actors and the presence of projected images and repeated strange phrases.

Homosexual erotica, an image of Jesus, shadow play, spilled milk and carefully selected video clips are woven together to create an unforgettable and unfathomable experience. I found myself in a constant state of confusion, hyper-analyzing every word, every image. As my brain worked itself to exhaustion, I eventually gave myself up to experience, letting the sound drip into my ear canals and the visuals wash over my retinas. My emotions took reign as shivers shook my core and a longing for some unidentifiable other filled my heart.

I left feeling equally full and empty, inspired and puzzled, and overwhelmingly in awe.