Out There performance festival opens with "Hospital,” a show about healthcare

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 10, 2014 - 10:28 AM

The show that opens Out There at Walker Art Center is a joint effort by Dutch theater-makers Wunderbaum and the Los Angeles Poverty Department.

A birth scene opens “Hospital” at Walker Art Center’s Out There series. Photo by Steve Gunther

You can usually bet walking around money that Walker Art Center’s Out There series is the best thing going in Twin Cities performing arts in any given January.

The global showcase of experimental, avant-garde shows offers revelatory and thought-provoking pieces, even if the ideas in some works are not wholly realized.

“Hospital,” a collaboration between Dutch performing artists Wunderbaum and the Skid Row actors of the Los Angeles Poverty Department, kicked off the 26th season of Out There on Thursday.

This plink- and beep-filled 100-minute work seeks to send up TV medical dramas while also taking on the history and challenges of getting healthcare to more Americans.

That is about as interesting as it sounds.

Commissioned by the Walker, “Hospital” is a work whose urgency has been overtaken by events. More and more previously uninsured d Americans are getting healthcare coverage, even if the implementation of Obamacare has been plagued by problems.

The production, which has documentary elements, twins the search for healthcare to the life of John Malpede, founder of LAPD. The show begins in 1945 as his screaming mother, played by Marleen Scholten, gives birth to him by C-section. In the hospital mayhem, Scholten holds a camera to her own face (the image is projected on a screen) while hospital employees spin the bed that she lies on.

This opening scene has the energy of those hospital dramas the show parodies, and is the most engaging bit of “Hospital.”

What follows resembles a TV newsmagazine segment. Slides show weathered photographs of Malpede as a young artist. All of it relates to the healthcare policies of presidents Truman and Johnson, Reagan and Obama. The show has scenes of dancing and romance. There are protests.

But for all the charisma of the performers — and they are intriguing — “Hospital” feels static.

Its once-urgent premise now seems passé, especially as the subject of an avant-garde work. Its ideas are ones that you can read in policy journals. Even for wonks who are deeply concerned about single-payer, the public option and other such things that come up in “Hospital,” the opening show in the Out There series feels like something that’s urgently in need of oxygen.

“Hospital” could use a good script doctor.

 

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390

  • HOSPITAL

    Who: Created by Wunderbaum and the Los Angeles Poverty Department.

    When: 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

    Where: Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.

    Tickets: $18-$22, 612-375-7600, or www.walkerart.org.

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