Pig Iron Theatre Company, at Mum Puppettheatre, 126 Leverington Ave., Manayunk, through Nov. 23, 482-6478

Just in time for the Chrysler Building and the stock market crash, the 30-year-old Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca (Dito van Reigersberg) arrives in New York City for a nine-month fellowship at Columbia. Barefoot in a dark suit and bow tie, carrying a bucket of water which he uses to slick back his hair compulsively as he enters through a doorway into each new room, Lorca navigates the intersections, sidewalks and window ledges of the city, the noises of the street (in Ted Pierce and Martin Carrillo's sound design) blending with the complex flamenco clapping rhythms of his native Andalusia.

Pig Iron Theatre's hour-long solo performance piece, co-written by van Reigersberg and director Dan Rothenberg, captures Lorca's breathless astonishment at American urban culture (he literally drops to his knees and begins praying when he hears Victoria Spivey sing the blues at Small's Paradise Club). It shows us Lorca in hot debate with the Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali about art, sex and love (Dali, newly enamored of "that German" Sigmund Freud and dreaming of women "as tall as giraffes," argues for the sex act and for a hedonistic, grandly sacrilegious heterosexuality; Lorca for homosexuality and the miracle of love). And it stages an encounter in Brooklyn between Lorca and poet Hart Crane, culminating in a breathtakingly beautiful pas de deux between Lorca and a piano bench.

Poet in New York captures a lot more - things that cannot be so easily defined or described. The spirit of Walt Whitman beckons to Lorca from a waterfall with a single finger, urging Lorca to "demand everything... demand your place in nature." Lorca refers to love as an underground river, water "that has no ear to hear it," and tells a story about a boy trapped deep in a well, barely able to see the sky. At the end of the piece, Lorca puts on his shoes, dumps out the bucket of water, and walks through one last doorway.

Perhaps these images will be explained, amplified or contextualized in the other two pieces about Lorca that Pig Iron will create to complete a cycle of plays to be presented in Barcelona in 1998.

Or perhaps not - which will not in the least bit detract from their haunting beauty or simple power.

-Cary M. Mazer