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IPO:Flipping Unreal Estate at the $ellout Festival, Brick Theatre, NY

nytheatre.com review
Wendy Remington · June 30, 2006

What if the art world was run by a corporation with a bottom line and a goal of domination of the global market? In IPO: Flipping Unreal Estate, purchase of your ticket earns you the status of an initial investor and gets you into a board meeting for the IPO Corporation, a global art merchandizing firm. IPO felt like being swept up in a corporate temp job gone horribly wrong. Wildly creative, this performance piece explores the potential commoditization of artistic expression and creativity by putting it into a corporate context.

Dr. O, Corporate Mouthpiece (Octavio Campos), is the ringleader of the IPO board meeting. He is both creepy in that plastic corporate headpiece way, and incredibly vulnerable and lovable as his artist self. Michael Yawney (CEO) seems to be the puppeteer behind the scenes of IPO. Campos and Yawney are joined in the cast by Heath Kelts, April Henry, Ursula Cataan, Allison Rich, and Daniel Bourgoin.

This is no passive, fourth wall performance piece: you are an active participant in the show from the moment you arrive at the theatre all the way out the door. Waiting outside the theatre we are greeted by Carmela Hinkley, the Executive Ass of IPO (Henry) who collects audience demographics and hands out auction paddles. Campos and Kelts, International Relations, press the flesh and hand out cards.

Inside the theatre, the audience is given an agenda for this board meeting, around which the ensemble directs this roller coaster ride that runs the asset of creativity through a corporate model. Through a series of smaller speeches and performance pieces, they explore the potential of saving money though global outsourcing of art creation to third world countries, artistic Best Practices, a church-style hymnal (complete with collection baskets) thanking their benefactors, and end with an insane auction that finds, and then steps far over, the line of how far artists may go to make money and their easy replacement by younger, more pliant artists in a corporate structure.

This ensemble does a tremendous job of creating a very rich and detailed world in this piece. I think overall the piece would benefit from a little more traffic direction from an outside eye. Often I felt deluged with information, as speeches were going on in front of me on stage, small happenings were occurring throughout the audience, and a multimedia projection was being played upstage simultaneously. Although overwhelming the audience, especially by the use of technology, seemed an intentional (and very interesting) goal, it was more often than not difficult to decide where to put my focus, and I lost several of the speeches, particularly Yawney's and Kelts's.

Topically, this piece is a perfect selection for the Brick Theater's $ellout Festival. Ironically though, it is this artist ensemble's obvious integrity and heart that makes their playing out of a theoretical public offering of an art corporation so compelling.

Copyright ©2006 The New York Theatre Experience, Inc. All rights reserved.

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