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Hoppe on the Arts: Brave New World

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Aldous Huxley meant the title of his novel, Brave New World, to be ironic. The society he envisioned actually represented a kind of retreat -- from intensity, heartbreak, and the kind of transformation occasionally available through audacious works of art.

Alyson Mull's adaptation of Huxley's work -- performed last weekend under the aegis of NoExit Performance at the Murphy Art Center in Fountain Square -- turns that idea on its head. Mull's version -- a melding of movement, language and handmade stagecraft -- was all about intensity.

As Josefa Beyer observed in last week's NUVO, NoExit Performance is turning into a go-to source for a certain kind of cutting-edge work in these parts. Under the leadership of Nicole Gatzimos, and enlisting the talents of a cadre of performers fresh from John Green's theatre program at Butler, NoExit seems to have found its stride through the adaptation of classic works (Ibsen and Shakespeare have also served), presented in site-specific or similarly adventurous settings.

Brave New World was set in a high-ceilinged, multi-level space that, for all practical purposes, might have been bombed-out. It was the perfect site for a piece about a time and place where emotions and moral consequence have been carved away from peoples' insides like so much wasted fruit.

This may have been NoExit's most fully realized production yet. The commitment on the part of the players was impressive and Mull's shrewd use of text, combined with her battering choreographic style filled the room with energy and, even better, ideas. I'm not so sure about her heavy reliance on pre-recorded pop -- it pushes her aesthetic closer to Baz Luhrman than to Beckett for my taste -- but the ingenuity of her stagecraft is undeniable.

Arts administrators all over town complain about the difficulty of attracting younger adults to their halls. And so they offer a variety of come-ons designed to lure the recalcitrant based on the idea that once these yahoos see the great stuff on offer they'll become regular ticket buyers. This approach is not only inherently condescending, it also misses the point. What NoExit understands as well anybody in town is that theater isn't just a social ritual, but a full-body experience. With Brave New World they have begun to lay claim to the future.

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