by Dan Lehner
Photo credit: Dan Lehner
Marla Mase has a lot she wants to talk about.
Over the course of the 90-minute “Speak”—a new multimedia/multidisciplinary work based on her album of the same name—Mase and her collaborator Tomás Doncker traversed a fairly large gamut of social and political themes concerning women, including body image, sexuality, and adolescence, as well as more general concerns, like war.
To add to the complexity, Mase and Doncker, aided by a live band during their live performance Saturday night at Herbert Von King Park, draped all of them in a whole host of genres ranging from reggae and punk to roots rock and electronica. As if that weren’t enough, they then included spoken word, popular dance, ballet, and image projection, accompanied by board dancers, actors, and video artists. Like most works of non-linear pastiche, “Speak” aimed at using genre and a variety of media to view a topic several different ways—but unlike most patchwork presentations, Mase and Doncker didn’t limit themselves to multiple views of just one subject.
There were a few instances where “Speak” was able to make truly effective musings on its subject matter, and each of these moments occurred when Mase and her collaborators were at their most subtle. There were lyrics throughout of feeling invisible, keeping with Mase’s themes of female adolescence, and there was one spoken-word segment in which a fictional “everywoman” muses on what how she should behave and look as a female, keeping the narrative loose and inclusive.