Peter Mills Weiss and Julia Mounsey’s “[50/50] old school animation” arrives at the Public Theater’s Under the Radar festival preceded by a fearsome buzz about its being disquieting. Fear not: “I don’t think either of us is interested in assaulting the audience,” Mr. Weiss said. “I’m not interested in actively hurting people.”
Mind you, Mr. Weiss, 30, also describes the first time he saw Ms. Mounsey perform what would become the first half of their show as “extremely terrifying” and “an absolutely chilling experience.”
“[50/50] old school animation,” running Friday through Jan. 13, makes the most out of seemingly little. It lasts under an hour, has a minimal set, and is made up of two monologues, the first delivered by Ms. Mounsey and the second by Mo Fry Pasic. (Ms. Pasic and Sophie Weisskoff helped devise the second half.)
[Other festivals in January: Read about an adaptation of Sarah Kane’s “4:48 Psychosis” at Prototype: Opera/Theater/Now and a play by Gracie Gardner at the Exponential Festival.]
In her segment, Ms. Mounsey, 27, flirts with the outer limits of autofiction to build discomfort.
“I begin with things that are very true to me, like I am talking about my relationship with my body, and it morphs into some things I’ve never done, that are horrible,” she said by phone. “But I manage to use a logic that is particular to me, the Julia speaking right now, to get to that place of extreme violence.”
“I always feel that if I’ve done the monologue correctly, you don’t see her as a sociopath, you see her as a person who’s made choices,” Ms. Mounsey added. “I don’t know if I always achieve that. One of the first times I ever did it was at this performance night that Peter used to curate at Cloud City, and someone in the audience went ballistic, flipped me off, told me I should kill myself — while I was doing it.”
The pair come from different but oddly compatible backgrounds. Ms. Mounsey has written poetry and was an assistant on an early version of Young Jean Lee’s “Straight White Men,” while Mr. Weiss — the director (“for lack of a better word,” he said), co-writer and sound designer of “[50/50] old school animation” — has spent quality time in the city’s alt-comedy scene alongside the likes of Ms. Pasic and Lorelei Ramirez, who has a show, “Alive! (For Now),” in Under the Radar’s Incoming section.
Indeed, comedy seems to provide Ms. Mounsey and Mr. Mills the exact type of collaborators they need.
“We’ve developed a pattern of working with comedians who are secretly really good actors,” Ms. Mounsey said.
Mr. Weiss added: “A lot of the work we do requires people to inhabit a blurry version of themselves, and that is not a comfortable thing for a lot of actors capital A. There’s a huge comedy influence on the show, even though it gets maybe one laugh.”
“There is one laugh in the second half, maybe,” Ms. Mounsey confirmed, sort of. “Yeah, one laugh.” She chuckled. “It’s a comedy show.”
ONE MORE UNDER THE RADAR SHOW Proving that Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” is a bottomless fount of inspiration, the company New Saloon put different translations of it in a blender and out came the show “Minor Character.”