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Performance Art Review : Hugh Levick's 'Kid Copy'

June 20, 1986|MARC SHULGOLD

In the no-holds-barred world of performance art, nothing succeeds like excess. The more off-the-wall, the better, it seems.

There was certainly no shortage of the requisite supply of non-sequiturs, ultra-vague symbolism and sheer wackiness in Hugh Levick's solo tour de force "Kid Copy," as presented at the Bing Theatre of the County Museum of Art on Wednesday. Yet, surprisingly, there were also scattered moments of down-to-earth communicativeness.

The ambitious 70-minute work can be viewed as the ultimate marriage of the Me Decade and the Age of Technology, as Levick, dressed in a white jump suit, battles it out with his video-generated alter ego, the evil Kid Copy (a.k.a. "Half-head"). Endlessly, the two argue about everything from our hero's missing woman, Neff, to The Meaning of Life.

Sounds pretty tame. Not quite. For one thing, the running dialogue is a mixture of English and badly spoken French. For another, the three-dimensional Levick--whose character goes by the computer in-joke name of Driver--suddenly and inexplicably turns Egyptologist, not only rambling on about the pharaohs but actually dressing and dancing like one. Meanwhile, on the TV, Kid Copy rambles on in French.

To add to the confusion, late in the piece Driver introduces two new characters: Ken and Barbie. Yes, the dolls.

This whole spectacle might have remained just another semi-amusing, uninvolving experience for the modest-sized audience, if not for a single, inspired dramatic device: the escape of Kid Copy into the real world and the temporary imprisonment of poor Driver in the big black box with the glass tube.

Even though Levick was unable to draw the full potential of such a clever plot twist, the character switch did breathe some fresh air into this sagging balloon of a piece. It also provided the single musical highlight--a spunky, funky rap piece, "I'm Just a Copy." Up to that point, Levick's meandering score served merely as electronic background babble, save for an occasional live burst or two from his saxophone.

As an on-stage presence, Levick was more than up to the challenge of holding the stage, winning audience sympathy through his befuddled, vulnerable characterization and his total commitment to both roles. The ending, in which Driver watches in horror as Kid Copy and Neff (short for Nefertiti?) walk to freedom from their video prison, proved effective.

What it all meant, of course, remains open to discussion. Levick would probably be forced to turn in his performance artist's license if there were no vagaries.

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