By James Bartholomew
Love, loss, life, and rebirth. Humanity, hope, devastation, and death. Naturalistic beauty and personal strength. The birth of the cosmos and the exploration of the stars. To tackle any one of these sets of themes is a weighty enough task, but that writer, performer, and director Eva Petrič chooses to take on all of them at once in her multimedia movement showcase “Eden, transplanted” is itself a praiseworthy feat. But what truly defies belief is that, for the most part, she pulls it off.
“Eden, transplanted” is above all an exploration of hearts, and the bodies they inhabit. In a show told through poetry, music, dance, and projections, Ms. Petrič muses on just about every aspect of her subject. The heart is at once an immortal and enduring icon of love, kindness, and personhood, while also being a mechanism whose constant pumping keeps us alive. The powerful symbolic irony of those meanings, in contrast to the overall fragility of our pulmonary muscle, is of chief interest to Ms. Petrič. As a voiceover reminds us at the start of the piece, your heart “begins beating about twenty‑two days after conception and ends, well, when you do.”
Again, these ideas are potent and ponderous, but Ms. Petrič’s movement and physicality anchor the play’s loftier notions. Her hands pantomime a heartbeat, and her arms extend to ward off the voiceover’s dark and oppressive words. These movements don’t just play out in the background of the projections, music and other design elements. They tell a story that contextualizes this barrage of images and sounds. Ms. Petrič and choreographer Janis Brenner (whose piece “Inheritance: A Litany” is another All About Solo favorite) craft a performance brimming with emotion and subtlety. It is at once elegant and ethereal enough to entrance its audience, while being legible and relatable enough to clarify highbrow concepts.
All of this plays out against a beautiful lace installation of Ms. Petrič’s own design and creation. A blend of lace ribbons and ornate doilies creates an abstract sunrise motif, the stark whiteness of which acts as a clever screen to catch the constant flow of projections. Each of the lace components is crafted in its own style, but they come together to create a piece far greater than the sum of its parts.
The lace itself is a coy reflection of the overall narrative of “Eden, transplanted,” one that imagines humans, much like the organs of their bodies, joining forces to propel humanity further. For, if a heart can be transplanted to serve a body, can humans transplant themselves for the good of humanity?
This question is at the center of a web of questions that “Eden, transplanted” raises. And if there is one stumbling point in the piece, it’s that those questions, dense as they are, don’t always have time to fully develop. In fact, “Eden, transplanted” has so much on its mind, that its most interesting ideas risk getting crowded. Moments after ruminating on the heart as both a reliquary of natural beauty and a propellant of human violence and hatred, the show jumps to question the human toll of space exploration.
Of course, there is an internal consistency to all the thoughtfulness, and the disparate segments do complement each other and flow with relative ease. But with so much being said, with barely half an hour to say it all, it’s hard to feel as though the meaning is sinking in, rather than just washing over you. It isn’t quite impenetrable, but it certainly flirts with the esoteric.
Thankfully, occasional moments of inscrutability don’t detract from an otherwise spellbinding performance, and a truly one‑of‑a‑kind experience. Ms. Petrič accomplishes more in thirty minutes than some shows do in triple that time. And while some of its ideas warrant further exploration, the brevity of “Eden, transplanted” only makes it more impressive. Every design element, from the lace installation to the poetic voices echoing like heartbeats, helps distinguish the production, adding strength to an already powerful voice. “Eden, transplanted” isn’t quite perfect, but it’s as close to paradise as they come.
Performed and Directed by Eva Petrič
Choreographed by Janis Brenner
November 4 at 7 PM
Photo: courtesy of the production
2019 United Solo Theatre Festival
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
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JAMES BARTHOLOMEW is a writer and musician living in New York City. He is an administrator of the Fordham University Theatre Program and an avid lover of the arts.