“What Just Happened?” Magnifies Mundane Moments, at PlayGround, S.F.
Nina Wise Makes Politics Omnipresent
by Tyler Jeffreys
In her solo show “What Just Happened?” Nina Wise develops her daily recollections into extraordinary political commentary on prejudice, veganism, and immigration. She even pokes fun at Bay Area political fads, making us feel slightly uncomfortable. Her rants make us think about why we believe what we believe.
Wise explains that each of her shows is unique. She tells us about a single day that started with an emergency nuclear alert in Hawaii. The alert reported a ballistic missile threat, which tells me that Nina’s show is deliciously immediate and impromptu.
The randomness of her “story of a day” charmingly mimics the structure of our everyday lives, moments strung onto moments. Astutely aware, Nina Wise derives meaning from the flashing montage of news, tweets, feelings, and anger. We bask in the warmth of her insightful story-telling. Wise reminds us to live in the present, to pay attention to “What Just Happened.”
On PlayGround’s bare stage, Wise rocks a pair of cool, comfortable looking red and black boots, and glides from one daily event to another. While most of us take our lives for granted, Nina Wise elaborates with wondrous details. She turns a simple birthday party at an upscale Berkeley Hills house into a satiric political rant, igniting smiles.
We get so lost in the melodic sounds of her voice that the point of these stories can elude us. One minute we are visiting her German-Jewish dad; the next thing, we are back at her house with the immigrant cleaning lady.
We appreciate her as we would a great dancer. Wise twitches, turns, and twists her long, limber limbs. She tells her tale with precise physicality, making a movement for each syllable. She imitates sirens as her arms become the sound-waves. The police car prompts short jerky motion, while the firetruck evokes elongated wormy moves. Her contortions quicken the pace, and ignite a hypnotic thrill.
When Wise talks about making an obnoxiously healthy smoothie to “enhance political awareness,” we laugh out loud. She becomes the blender, whirling her flexible torso and using her arms to add ingredients. What imagery!
Wise’s keen perspective turns everyday life into a hilarious adventure. We follow her across the stage, elongating time. She slows down time as she assesses trivial pursuits.
A gifted storyteller and a student of Dharma, Nina Wise teaches the value of being present enough to evaluate the situations we deem mundane or routine. At first the stories exclude a main point, but by end we realize that is the point. Politics are embedded in our everyday social interactions, money exchanges, and even on simple drive to work.
Since every show is slightly different, we are curious what will happen to her on stage this weekend, and the next!
“What Just Happened?” written and performed by Nina Wise, by PlayGround, at Portrero Stage, San Francisco, through Saturday, January 28, 2018. Info: playground-sf.org
Cast: Nina Wise
PlayGround Solo Performance Festival is hosting award-winning Bay Area solo artists telling their stories. PlayGround’s “pop-up” festival features new works by Lisa Evans, Malcolm Grissom, Marjorie Hazeltine, Michael Phillis, Katie Rubin, Thomas Robert Simpson, Nina Wise, and Dan Wolf.