In the program notes for Art of Memory, Tanya Calamoneri's macabre dance-theater piece about bookish isolation, gifted designer Sean Breault describes his set as a blend of his "fascination with Theodore Kaczynski [the Unabomber] and his 'living quarters,' The Deep South, Reclusive Troglodytes, Swamps, Mystics, Open Heart Surgeries, Beautiful Minds, One's Descent Into Madness, Possessions, Spirits and Kittens that some people put into bags and toss over the bridge's edge." Though no cats are killed nor hearts dissected during the hour long performance, Breault's description aptly conveys Art of Memory's atmosphere: sometimes sullen, sometimes febrile, always strange.
The moody trip, which takes its name from Frances Yates's 1966 book about human memory before printing, begins as soon as you enter 3 Legged Dog and encounter the mesmerizing glass music performed live by Miguel Frasconi. The centerpiece of Breault's delightful set is a closed shack on stilts; to the right there's a grove of trees with book pages for bark, a moon hovers to the left, and dozens of books dangle from the ceiling with Edison light bulbs glowing in the bindings. The lights dim, and three pale ghosts—women in bloomers—dance/creep into the room and open up the walls of the shack to reveal an elaborately dusty library, presided over by a stick-thin woman dressed in black and dangling a book on a leash.
What narrative there is consists of fairy tales told by the shack lady to the apparitions below; these include Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes and a twist on Bluebeard, in which the title character chops off the hands of his young wife when he discovers her using her typewriter. Then a hurricane blows through and books fly everywhere, finally turning them into islands in a vast flood. Calamoneri, who performs in the piece with writer Lisa Ramirez, cites Borges's bewitching story The Library of Babel as an influence, and though a rich erudition informs their collaboration, it's occasionally so opaque that a slight repetitiveness takes over. Still, there's ultimately enough imaginative artistry at work here to make for a memorable, albeit mysterious, evening.