A Welcome Gust of Weird, and Adventures in Shadow Puppetry
Laura Collins-Hughes, The New York Times

At the Chocolate Factory Theater in Long Island City, Queens, the Institute of Useless Activity’s “This and That” is also experimental, but it occupies the other end of the overload spectrum. Its medium is light and shadow.

Created by Steven Wendt and Phil Soltanoff, and performed by Wendt, one of the Blue Men of Blue Man Group, it is a slip of a show — no plot or dialogue, just projections, shadow puppetry, music.

Presented with the Bushwick Starr and directed by Soltanoff, it’s soothing stuff. The first section gets gently psychedelic, with kaleidoscopic colors and morphing shapes, and lots of following an emerald-green light. If you have a favorite edible, I imagine that preshow would be a fine time to indulge.

Later Wendt makes shadow puppets, which are variously impressive — such as the form of an adult and a child, sweetly rocking — and perplexing. There was one that I never did figure out.

A grain of salt: At the performance I saw, someone in the front row was shooting cellphone video for the Chocolate Factory’s archives. In a show about light and darkness, a brightly glowing phone screen is as loud as a shout, and as disruptive. I might have been able to lose myself more to the experience without that.

It is a playful production, though, with a spirit of inquiry. In just under an hour, it doesn’t add up to much, but, then again, the clue is in the name. “This and That” is a sampling — curated odds and ends.

Laura Collins-Hughes for The New York Times – September 21, 2022