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Theater review: THEM at P.S. 122

November 1, 2010

Ishmael Houston-Jones, Chris Cochrane, and Jonathan Walker in the first staging of THEM in 1985

Ishmael Houston-Jones, Dennis Cooper, and Chris Cochrane created a piece called THEM at Performance Space 122 in 1985-86 that became legendary for a number of reasons, including its status as one of the earliest performance pieces that directly reflected the impact of AIDS on gay men’s lives. I didn’t see the original production but I did see two subsequent collaborations these guys did: knife/tape/rope at P.S. 122 (I vividly remember the opening image of Jonathan Walker bound and gagged on the floor while the soundtrack played the 45 of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” slowed down to 33 rpm) and then The Undead at the 1990 Los Angeles Festival. On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, the creators got together and re-made the piece with a group of young dancers, and it just finished a two-week run at P.S. 122. I’m glad I got to see it and write about it for

Jeremy Pheiffer in the 2010 revival of "THEM"

“It’s not any kind of rainbow-flag celebration of gay life but a dark and honest evocation of the complicated interplay of fear, longing, tenderness, and hostility that young men experience in their grappling toward intimacy. A performance piece born out of a very particular East Village aesthetic, THEM is not a play by any means. It’s more of a dance, but a dance centered not on steps but on actions that represent without exactly illustrating the stories that Cooper reads, standing in a corner of the bare space speaking into a handheld microphone. But it is as much an elegy and an alarm.”

You can read the entire review online here.

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