Ping Chong, The Devil You Know

Devilpostcardfront One of our dearest friends in the world has been involved with Ping Chong & Company as long as I can remember.  Hence, we have gone to a variety of performances over the years.  Some good, some bad. 

Ping has an incredible artistic mind, he is also a really nice guy.  He is a director, choreographer, video and installation artist.  What would be the world be without avant garde artists?  I give him huge credit and my friend for supporting Ping and other artists like him over the years.  Ping continues to try new things, some end up being fantastic like Sustained Achievement, that I still remember and think about.  Then there have been other performances where I was tortured sitting through it.  Cutting edge stuff can often be brutal but when there are those flashes of briliance, it is obvious why you have to support artists like Ping. 

Last night, we went to the latest production called The Devil You Know, at La MaMa.  Bonus, the play was an hour long.  The actors were marionettes.  Two old homes set on the stage with a huge video installation over the homes that was used for weather and narrative. 

The story takes place in the 1800's in New Hampshire.  In essence, the story is a fable.  The main character, is a farmer.  He is down on his luck.  He is barely making it as a farmer and can't pay his mortgage.  The other farmers want to create a cooperative so they can all help each other but he wants nothing to do with it.  All the farmers are fans of Daniel Webster who they believe will be the next President and has always helped the little people like themselves.  One night, the farmer goes to his barn and meets the devil.  The devil will make sure that he has money and success if he sells him his soul after seven years.  He agrees and his life changes.  He becomes a man so focused on money and himself that he leaves all his other farmers in the dust.  He becomes the new banker and charges the other farmers ridiculous interest rates to borrow his money.  The seven years come due and the devil comes to take his soul.  Daniel Webster shows up before the devil takes his soul and asks for a trial.  The jurors are other Americans from history who have obviously sold their souls to the devil too.  Webster asks them, if you could, wouldn't you go back and not give your soul if you could.  In the end, they let the farmer off, he keeps his soul, lets all the farmers out of their loans and becomes part of the community.

Ping is obviously using a fable to describe the current state of the banking industry.  History repeats itself.  Clever.  The marionettes are fantastic.  Certainly the marionettes represent pawns.  Although the banter of the characters is very basic, the moral ethos about community stands out.  Help your fellow man.  I loved the use of Daniel Webster too.

Another Ping performance.  What would life be with some off the beaten path theater?

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