ABBOT ADAM: NONE (No Face/ FringeArts): What does it all mean?

Pictured: Jaime Maseda and Mark McCloughan, Photo by Dan Comly, courtesy of FringeArts

Pictured: Jaime Maseda and Mark McCloughan, Photo by Dan Comly, courtesy of FringeArts

NONE, the second part of No Face Performance Group’s ABBOT ADAM series, begins with the faintly absurd: two male actors dressed as nuns folding laundry.

“It’s getting colder,” says one.

“Hum. Time for squash soup.”

Where the first part of the series was loud, NONE is quiet; where Evensong was clearly silly; NONE is slyly so. Here, creators/performers Jaime Maseda and Mark McCloughan set out on a difficult task: to present quotidian actions and interactions with an attention that feels meditative rather than tedious. Their success is remarkable. As we settle into the simple lives of the nuns during their hour of rest (none), we find opulent allegories in their asceticism: a simple twirl of the skirt speaks to a longing for freedom; a soliloquy on religious faith evokes the universal search for meaning.

Maseda and McCloughan are not female, they don’t live in an imagined arcadian past, they very likely don’t care much for doctrinal Christianity. In presenting an everyday that is not their everyday, they use the obvious artifice of theater to quieten our minds and distill our focus on the mundane.

Still, it’s unclear what they want to say to us once they have our attention. With talk of “

pastries” and “the sweet release of none” the faintly absurd gives way to the thoroughly absurd. Projected supertitles invite us to “consider an onion” Loud disharmonious music accompanies affected movements of awkward staccato. Are they in pain? discomfort? awe? 

Watch this, No Face challenge us. Endure this, they demand. Try to make sense out of this.

Perhaps befuddlement is the point. In 1851, poet Matthew Arnold remarked on the “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of “the sea of faith”  which once “round earth’s shore/ Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.”  Although faith survives in mosques and megachurches, for many of us, its retreat “to the breath of the night-wind” is now so certain as to be unremarkable. But the longings which religion filled remain; we still want to know: What does it all mean? In NONE, Maseda and McCloughan present no answers, but they remind us of the question.

[FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Boulevard] December 10-12, 2015; fringearts.com/abbot-adam-none.

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.