ZERO AT THE BONE: John Kelly's "The Escape Artist"

About suffering they were never wrong/The Old Masters...
                       W.H. Auden, "Musee des Beaux Arts"

The to-the-bone clarity of this sung and spoken meditation on pain and possibility puts the chameleon John Kelly in a new onstage avatar: himself. On the way to making another piece of transformation art--though this time already planning a degree of distance from his new subject, the painter Caravaggio--John Kelly plummeted upside down from a trapeze, while practicing a stunt which would have concluded his planned theater piece. Instead, it ended the work as he planned it. This is where he ends instead, telling the story of what happened on the way to not making the piece he wanted to make. Here is John Kelly on suffering, redemption, and the terrible moment that can, in any life, change everything.  If you know this moment, the pain will be your own. If you know his biography, you can read deeper still, but you don't have to think of how John Kelly has escaped consequences and gone on to make art, and  how he has escaped himself to so fully inhabit the personas of Joni Mitchell, Egon Shiele, Maria Callas. Because here he is, a patient etherized upon a table. But without the anodyne. This memoir is a rare combination of the refined and the raw. Th art is real. And so was the fall.

photo credit: Ves Pitts