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A Peeping Audience Gets ... Bored

August 4, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ The idea sounded novel. Several hundred people would sit in rows of chairs in Lincoln Center Plaza, wearing headsets and holding binoculars, and peep into rooms in the Radisson Empire Hotel across the street.

The result, however, was stultifyingly boring.

It all was part of a theatrical show called ``C’est La Vie,″ which opens with lights being turned on in a room in which newlyweds make love. Then, lights go on in a room where a couple mark their 10th wedding anniversary by bickering.

Snippets of stories are seen and dialogue ``overheard,″ but nobody’s story can be developed much, so the material is much too simple and banal.

A daughter in her 30s keeps trying to tell her complaining mother she wants to leave home. A detective who is insane questions and beats a man. A young man listens to an off-the-wall disc jockey. A businessman wanting to work gets a series of telephone brushoffs and answering machines. A girl dances with an immigrant. A sculptor’s wife gives a party for him while he flirts with their maid. And _ symbolically _ two young women simply waste time.

Death hovers. A sick man will be killed by his philosophy-spouting nurse. An angel dances in a top-floor room, which is kept lit. A reporter announces that a hole in the ozone layer is moving toward New York.

After an hour and three-quarters, the angel’s robe slides down a wire to the street. By that time, however, about two-thirds of the audience was gone.

``C’est La Vie,″ which opened Thursday night and will run a week, is part of Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, which presents a variety of free entertainments during August.

Binoculars and headsets containing radios are rented for this one, however; audience members could bring their own binoculars and radios that would pick up the speaking.

Veronique Guillaud, who created and directed, got the idea for ``C’est La Vie″ when riding on the Paris Metro above-ground and looking into the homes of strangers. In 1993, she presented ``Free Fall,″ a predecessor of this theater piece, using a hotel in San Francisco.

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