“Even in non-existence, existence exists. Even in insanity, sanity exists,” sings Eva Petrič, writer and performer of “Webbing.” Pretty turns of phrase, to be sure, but they don’t exactly hold up to scrutiny when allowed to linger on the ear. For all their poetic flair, without proper unpacking, lines like that often feel hollow and brittle. That’s exactly the fate that’s been dealt to “Webbing,” a play that stumbles over its own intricate web. “Webbing” is a multimedia performance art piece set to the music of Ms. Petrič. The collection of songs and projections is tied together (literally and figuratively) by the ethereal and simple idea of webs – strings and nets connecting the people and ideas that make up our lives. Through the curated seven‑song setlist, a shortened version of Ms. Petrič’s twelve‑song “ANGEL OF YOUR ULTRA SOUND” project, the performer spins a web of her own. Armed with a spool of red yarn, Ms. Petrič weaves a continuous zigzag across the stage that multiplies in length and complexity as the show goes on. The webbing itself is perhaps the piece’s greatest strength. Its physicality adds some footing to the show’s high‑concept ambitions and once the expectation is set, the anticipation of the web growing makes the performance surprisingly engaging. But unique as it is, the thread is not quite enough to keep the work feeling grounded or tangible. It doesn’t help that Ms. Petrič only makes two additions to her web during the show. When she first strings up the theatre with red yarn, it’s easy to imagine all of the ways the web will ensnare objects, people, and even memories. By the show’s end, the web is dotted with red roses, making for an elegant scene, but one that comes slightly short of the work’s inherent potential. While the thread makes for a potent prop, it’s far from the main attraction. That comes in the form of Ms. Petrič’s haunting, space rock jams that fill the room with thunderous cacophony. It’s almost paradoxical the way that these songs sound at once soothing and dissonant. Ms. Petrič’s voice oozes with a mysterious and detached, high‑pitched legato. It’s not always perfectly pitched, but the vocal performance does wonders to contribute to the show’s unique sound. That said, the setlist is lacking in variety. The distorted guitars and R&B drums give way to more of the same as the show wears on, and the dreamlike allure that begins the piece struggles to stay relevant by the end. Flat lighting compounds the problem and washes out the projections that illustrate Ms. Petrič’s singing. She herself spends most of “Webbing” anchored to her microphone off to the side of the stage. As previously mentioned, the lyrical quality proves inconsistent. Bromidic aphorisms like the ones about existence and sanity abound, and distracting vocal reverb often makes Ms. Petrič’s story difficult to parse. the projections are intended to smooth over that issue, but the disjointed clips are frequently just as Ill‑defined as the vocals. One song opens with interlaced shots of birds flying while a woman flaps her arms by a lake. Another video shows the actress dancing over the limbs of a dying tree by the beach. Hardly terrible imagery, but far from original. Just beneath the affected stylings, there’s the seed of a brilliant idea waiting to germinate. The way that Ms. Petrič grows and augments her web throughout the piece – the bright crimson string shining obstinately against her black gown – is as stunning as it is captivating. It’s such a lovely concept, but without room to expand or develop, it makes for shaky bedrock at best. The yarn of “Webbing” is one worth spinning, but it needs a bit more refinement before it catches anyone in its web. “Webbing” Written and Performed by Eva Petric Nov. 1 at 7:30pm Stage Manager: Oliver Zehetner Photo: courtesy of the production United Solo 2018 Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
JAMES BARTHOLOMEW is a writer and musician living in New York City. He is an administrator of the Fordham University Theatre Program and an avid lover of the arts.