Blogging 'Einstein'

Philip Glass's Masterwork, Minute by Breathless Minute

Lucie Jansch

By Eileen Reynolds

Published September 21, 2012.

(page 6 of 8)

9:50: Big open stage. Plumes girl is sitting on a high chair. I hear bass clarinet and saxophone. There’s the judge and the jail and Einstein and his chair. “I feel the earth move,” says plumes girl, and I think of that Carole King song. No, no, that’s not right. This has nothing to do with Carole King. Bojangles gal is back into her speech, but with some new stuff — “Einstein,” “Einstein on the Beach” — there! She said it. She said the name of the show. “I feel the earth move under my feet,” says the other one. Ah! Carole King! She said Carole King! I was right. “F-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-facts,” says Bojangles, like she has a stutter. More about Carole King, and then some radio call numbers, like we’re listening to a top-40 show from a few decades back.

10:00: Yay — more dancing! This time, when they’re not leaping or spinning, they sometimes do a bit of quick footwork with their arms at their sides, “Riverdance” style. I still like the yellow hair best. The couple to my left steps on me on their way out. Why do people leave during the dancing? It’s the best part. Now the dancers are backlit, and someone in black — oh, it’s the guy with the red beard, from the train! — is sort of ominously moving around downstage. When the dancers step into the light I can see how sweaty they are. This show is a marathon for them, too. The audience applauds at the end of the dance.

10:10: Oooh, that super-low vibrating bass I’ve come to love, and then a big solo from Einstein on the violin. I can tell that Glass spent a lot of time listening to the Bach Sonatas and Partitas: This kind of theme-and-variation is pleasantly old-fashioned, in a way. More applause, and then another mass exodus.

10:??: Just the automaton chorus, in the pit, and Einstein. It’s just lovely. They’re alternating between that lyrical church-y theme and something angrier, with Einstein busy playing arpeggios. Without the organ and the other instruments, the chorus sounds more recognizably human. I’m staring into their faces. I like this almost as much as the dance. The couple crawls over me to get back to their seats. The woman has a water bottle. I want to steal it.

10:who-the-hell-cares?: The chorus have toothbrushes! They are brushing their teeth! They turn to the audience and stick out their tongues! Everyone laughs and applauds.

??:??: There’s a person in a tall brick tower, tapping her fingers on the windowsill. A saxophone starts playing a sultry line like nothing we’ve heard so far. Oh! The saxophonist is standing in the pit, stage right. I can see him! One automaton enters, rapidly shaking her head at a book she’s holding open in her hands. Other automatons walk in from stage right, carrying themselves rather more like regular people this time. The little boy has a skateboard. That saxophone is really going wild; this must be improvised. It sounds so free over the metronomic organ accompaniment. In fact, it sounds out of place — like the sexy love theme from a 1980s B-movie romance. Now they’re all lined up across the stage with their backs to us, pointing up at the sky. Is she really shaking her head at the book, or is she just reading really, really fast, like Data from “Star Trek”? Why are they all looking up at that tower? The saxophone is going crazy. I’m suddenly nervous. Something bad is going to happen.



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