Monday, December 11, 2006

Pilobolus' 35th Anniversary Celebration Astonishes

Dance is typically not my genre. While I'm able to identify Fosse in a flash through all of the theater reviewing years, I lack the expertise and training to properly critique dance. Hence, this is a layperson's short response piece.

The Shubert Theater in Boston played host to the brilliant, dazzling, acrobatic Pilobolus group the past three days. Now based in Washington Depot, CT, the organization's genesis was a dance class held at Dartmouth College in 1971.

Ever eclectic and equally stirring, this ensemble of gymnastic/elastic/beautifully muscled humans now tours five pieces which showcase variety and athelticism as set to music. "Aquatica" (2005) features Marcelo Zarvos' musical composition while"Momento Mori" (2006) is performed to Debussy, Garbarek, Bjork, and Mozart.

All of the work is dependent upon exquisite timing. "Symbiosis" requires balance and strength while the aforementioned "Momento Mori" is part dance/part theater as it tells the story of two individuals working backward from elderly years.

The precision and detail these dancers evidence is staggering. It's nothing short of thrilling to behold.

Pilobolus next appears at Proctor's Theater in Schenectady, NY on Jan. 28th. Place this one on your calendar asap.
See for further information regarding this amazing troupe.

Friday, December 08, 2006

"Black Snow" at Yale -- One Hilarious Hour, Then...

Opening moment: Novelist Sergei Leontievich Maxudov (Adam Stein), standing upon a table with a noose about his neck, fails miserably in a ridiculous attempt to commit suicide. Stein is sensational throughout as the protagonist within Mikhail Bulgakov's "Black Snow," as adpated by Keith Reddin and staged by Evan Yionoulis. The play continues at New Haven's Yale Repertory Theater through Dec. 23. The first fifty minutes of this production could not be more zany/witty/ludirous/clever.....takes me back to "Bananas."

Referencing Woody Allen, in fact, is appropriate. Stein, of slight physical build, reminds one of young Woody crossed, say, with thirtysomething coach of the NBA's New Jersey Nets, Lawrence Frank. Stein's Sergei is befuddled and bewildered. Miscast in life, his fortunes are about to turn.

It is 1926 in Moscow and self-deprecating Sergei Maxudov had hopes of getting his novel published....... but he's at the point of killing himself. A proofreader by trade, he shows his manuscript (pretty much illegible since his penmanship is shoddy) to Rudolfi (Brian Hutchison), who actually likes it! The author is convinced that this fiction has potential, more appropriately, as a play.

And the fun begins, complete with sight gags, shenanigans -- including flawed contracts, confusion, complexity, name it. That cast members are hyped and hyper feeds the craziness.

I loved the absolutely riotous turn furnished by seasoned actor Susan Blommaert, who, at a manual machine, types each word of Maxudov's piece as fast as he is able to utter the dialogue. She tells Sergei to omit just three words........

Redhead Katie, Barrett, multi-cast, is deft, clever, versatile, and naturally comedic.

A notice of Sergei's play is posted on a billboard, along with works of Moliere, Shakespeare, and Aeschylus.
That is hardly imaginable. But, a review before the production occurs? And, the occasional interest about the arc in the script? The running time for Maxudov's play is, in theory, more than five hours. Finally, having labored extensively, he cuts it by twelve minutes.

Just before intermission, Ivan Vasilievich appears. He will produce the play. The venerable actor, Alvin Epstein, returns to Yale Rep where, as a young man, he helped found the theater.
It is Epstein's job to inhabit a character based upon Konstantin Stanislavsky, who originated the Moscow Art Theater. His acting "Method" was modified and sculpted further by Lee Strasberg and others in New York City during much of the twentieth century.

Ivan, however, does not especially warm to Maxudov's play. Since, this producer is tantamount to tyrant, the path toward performance is not fluid.

The problem with "Black Snow" is that a second hour (which begins as Sergei fiddles with a gun) could not possibly hold an entertaining candle to the first. Ivan (Epstein) is outrageous but he isn't particularly funny.

The first act is filled with absurdity, lack of reality, ribald humor, and lowbrow carryings on. It all works like a most diverting charm. The lunacy sends any theategoer who has even dabbled a bit with the performing or creative arts into a wild internal spin. I, for one, probably laughed out loud in the theater more than in many months.

By comparison, the second act seems flat. It would be impossible to maintain the dazzle of the early going.; (203) 432-1234