The DNA experience:  Uncomfortable, stimulating, provocative
Robert Crew

You’ve never tried a DNA Theatre production?  Well, let me tell you, it is an experience.

A case in point is WIT IN LOVE, a “performance installation” now playing at 133 Bathurst St.

You assemble on the porch of an ordinary house and are shown in by a young woman who gives you a list of dos and don’ts which you have to promise to obey.  (No touching the performer, unless he touches you.  No treading on the book on the floor, that sort of thing.)

Pleasant as she is, she is not particularly forthcoming and you end up being slightly uncomfortable and off-balance (a familiar DNA tactic).

You are divided into small groups, then shown into a small room where a man, dressed in tails, a white shirt, a short kilt and red tights is scribbling away at a table.

There’s plenty to look at as you wait for him to speak.  One half of the table is covered with about 20 knives, stuck point first into the table top.  The other half contains, among other things, a broken wine glass, a bottle of gin and a desk light.  Photos are plastered over the ceiling.  Pairs of women’s briefs hang from a series of clotheslines, strung at odd angles.  One burner on gas stove is on full.  It is warm.

The man is the hugely influential 20th century philosopher Wittgenstein and this excerpt from Sky Gilbert’s novella concentrates on the relationship between him and his only remaining brother, a pianist.  (The other two brothers, we are told, have committed suicide.)  While not a conventional relationship, it is loving, in its way.

While the piano music of Ravel plays in the background, Wittgenstein muses about Schopenhauer and Freud.

Hillar Liitoja’s Wittgenstein is a compelling character, tossing corks across the room into a bowl, using scissors to snip pieces off the wine glass or lying full-length on the floor contemplating his brother’s almost inevitable suicide.

In a program note, Liitoja thanks Gilbert for his “glorious, complex, convoluted, contradictory, tormented text” and it’s hard to be sure what this excerpt amounts to.  But it never fails to be stimulating and provocative  -  and that’s another consistent DNA trait over the years.

Toronto Star
December 4, 2009