Brooklyn Academy of Music Takes On SF Genre

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Science fiction took a postmodern turn in "Time Rocker," a collaboration by pop star Lou Reed, director Robert Wilson, and writer Darryl Pinckney. The production was presented as a highlight of the popular Next Wave Festival, now in its 15th year at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), where it continues through Dec. 13.

The heroes are Nick and Priscilla, servants accused of murdering their employer, a 19th-century scientist who's missing from his London home. Hopping into a time machine that looks like an oversized fish, they search for Dr. Procopius in nooks and crannies of the past, present, and future around the globe - exploring with their eyes but not their hands, for fear of discombobulating history's natural flow.

"Time Rocker" was billed as an adaptation of H.G. Wells's delicious novel "The Time Machine," which has produced many progeny - including a memorable George Pal movie and a superb Classics Illustrated comic book - since it was published in 1895. The show turned out to have no specific links with Wells's tale, although Wilson's designs showed possible influence by W.A. Dwiggins's elegant illustrations for a 1931 edition, of which Wells was very fond. Edward Gorey's drawings may have influenced the style, too.

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What the production did have was a slow first act featuring the dancelike movements and semiabstract stage pictures that Wilson has been creating for decades; and a frequently stunning second act in which Wilson's images became more boldly dreamlike and Reed's music took on an electrifying edginess. In all, it was an uneven but worthwhile conclusion to the Wilson trilogy that started with "The Black Rider" and continued with "Alice."

Attractions in the Next Wave include works by musician Don Byron, dancers Eiko & Koma, composer Smei Satoh, and the Kronos Quartet. Wilson will make his Metropolitan Opera debut with Richard Wagner's "Lohengrin" next March.

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