The winter blues are getting us down and we’re all looking for ways to remind ourselves that spring is on its way. At least, that’s what all my podcasts tell me, and I do everything my podcasts tell me to do. Luckily for us, there’s a wonderfully warm and reinvigorating show called Poste Restante, a mixed-media performance playing through February 16 at The Tank, a nonprofit arts space in the heart of Times Square. Taking its name from the French for a dead letters office where undeliverable mail is kept, Poste Restante is certainly not dead on arrival and it delivers in every way*.
*See what I did there? So so clever.
Bonnie Duncan and Tim Gallagher, who together form the creative duo They Gotta Be Secret Agents, use their short hour-performance time to examine themes of relationships and missed communications. They rely on lively and entrancing scenes alternating between puppetry, shadow play, dance, video, and acrobatics – everything, frankly, except actual words. Neither of the performers speak a single word through the show, but their set is filled with them. Letters in handwritten envelopes lie strewn across the stage, stacked cardboard delivery boxes are Bonnie and Tim’s main source for props.
The scenes range in content style just about as much as they range in form. There’s a humorous vaudevillian skit about trying to fit a contortionist into a delivery box, a shadow performance about two lonely hearts united through the magic of their own inventions, and a passionate, powerful dance about lovers parting ways. The scenes range from whimsical to evocative, imaginative to hard realism, but they’re all tinged with a tone of melancholia that could also fall under a nostalgic loneliness. A desire to renew personal human interactions in the simple act of writing a letter or sending a package. It looks back on a dying era of handwritten love-notes and care packages as a source of comfort, albeit perhaps an imperfect one, in today’s alienating digital age.
The Secret Agents are at the best when performing their more physically-centered skits. Bonnie and Tim first met as dance partners and decided to expand their mutual interests in storytelling and physicality. Their choreography is simple, yet reliably striking. Each movement or pose brings us closer into their characters’ emotional lives and it was thrilling to see their relationships play out solely through movements. Their dancing and acrobatics are always graceless, yet deliberate, which really makes for entrancing theater.