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Loyaltown, USA!

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Peter Rose's "Loyaltown" sparkles as it disarms"
"LOYALTOWN, USA!" Institute of Contemporary Art
Review/Performance by John Engstrom
Boston Globe, January 22, 1985


Sweetness is a quality you don't expect to find in performance art, a medium that's often a vehicle for alienation with a capital A. But Peter Rose's "LOYALTOWN, USA!" at The
Institute of Contemporary Art last week-end sparkled and disarmed with its suffusing niceness. A fifty-minute swirl of monologues, songs and dances that illustrate scenes from Rose's childhood in Far Rockaway, Queens and elsewhere. It's the third part of a trilogy called "over the wall stories" about Rose's pilgrimages through America, Poland and Germany, filtered through the prism of his Jewish heritage and upbringing.

On stage Rose-still in his 20's and dressed through almost the whole performance in paisley pajamas-comes across like a hyper-kinetic child. His eyes are so dark and so big that his pupils seem to be permanently dilated, and he's in a perpetual motion of choreographed fidgets, whether showing us how he dribbled a basketball in gym or, in a surreally funny scene, portrayed Ado Annie in a summer camp production of "Oklahoma!" The episodes are seen as from a child's perspective in that the characters, who include his troubled alcoholic father and various schoolmates and teachers loom bigger than life but never acquire a life of their own. And his humor lacks a grownup's sense of irony.

But Rose in the spoken sections of the piece has a shrewd novelists's sense of detail. Merely by describing the twinkling stars reflected in a girlfriend's oddly shaped earrings in a planetarium scene, he gives us a whole world. And by repeating these details in an incantatory way, underlined by dance-like gestures, Rose gives childhood's rites of passage a strong flavor of ritual. Actually, the only thing you could say against "LOYALTOWN, USA!" at The ICA was that it made you itch to see the other two thirds of the trilogy.


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