Sometimes, a show comes in from the far left field. This year’s entry is a little handmade piece called Iz, a highly idiosyncratic effort that is difficult to summarize and even trickier to rate objectively.Iz is the brainchild of acupuncturist Debbie Jolly, who describes it as “an experiential piece of theater.” Components include original poems (some recalling Elizabethan styles or the King James Bible and others less formally structured), singing and dancing, light humor, bits of science and a great deal of wide-eyed wonderment at the quiet majesty of the natural world. The costumes alternately resemble medieval garb, the outfits worn by Balinese gamelan musicians and pajamas.
Jolly reads her verse, clowns, dances and plays the violin, and Bob Jolly (a founding member of the band Ozzie and of the performance troupe Draw Pinky) also clowns and contributes some savvy guitar playing. They and the other cast members look to be white and middle-aged. They (presumably) hit their teens in the late 1960s and subsequently tuned to things New Age. There are bells and chanting. The show ends with a loose-limbed dance, drawing on a guitar riff bearing kinship to a T Rex tune, with the cast repeating the words “sweet bosom of the Earth.”
Is it done with the literary genius of, say, Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia? Are the performances (in varied styles) of a high standard throughout? Realistically, is any artist going to excel at so many different things?
No, but there’s a pure, casual sincerity about this show, a sense of enjoyment and commitment. For a certain kind of theatergoer, Iz will yield pleasant rewards—I fall halfway into that category myself. But for others, it will seem like a lot of noodling. Consider the above description and consult your own expectations.