Reviewed by Matthew Lee Schneider
“This hotel does not belong to America. There are no vacuum cleaners, no rules and shame. The high spot of the surreal…” – Arthur Miller.
A stubborn weed in the garden of the American dream, the Chelsea Hotel was, is, and forever more will be a raw and true counter-cultural heartbeat behind the romantic façade that is Manhattan. In its most reveled days of the mid-twentieth century, the Chelsea provided physical and artistic shelter for the spark of a revolution in expression.
Acclaimed radical dance company of Cardiff, Earthfall, translates this snapshot in time to a fervent and emotion-flooding performance of Chelsea Hotel, remaining faithful to its policy to “forge radical choreography with live music and strong visual imagery.”
With every chord and beat that reverberates throughout the audience comes the lyrical echo from the lips of Dylan and Joplin through the Chelsea halls. With every rebellious stomp into the studio floor comes the drunken footfalls of Thomas after a night of eighteen whiskies. With every intimate breaking of the fourth wall via strategic stage cameras comes the mad philosophical exchanges of Ginsberg and Corso under endless Beat stars. With every flash of original projected photography, comes a gaze down the avant-garde lens of Warhol and Morrissey. Chelsea Hotel does not emulate its namesake, but rather becomes, in all aesthetic and audible dimensions.
Though inhabited by such an eclectic array of heads and hearts, the Chelsea miraculously forms a structure without internal boundaries. No walls, no doors, and no inhibitions have separated those who have called it home, whether for a night or for life. It is this aspect wherein Chelsea Hotel truly inspires.
The featured cast reminds the audience of human connection and identity in its most basic form, and the accompanying emotions which are felt by all, regardless of environment. Self-discovery begs for companionship. Chelsea Hotel sheds this light of humanity beautifully, honoring the Manhattan monument which, returning to Miller, has, “…a scary and optimistic chaos which predicted the hip future and at the same time the feel of a massive, old-fashioned, sheltering family.”