NW New Works: BLOG REPORT - May 16, 2008 May 17, 2008

by Tania Kupczak

Yesterday, I attended four half-hour performances at The NW New Works Festival at On the Boards in Seattle, WA. The interactive misadventures of GOAT and subgroup 33 (See Manual) was a movement-based improv piece performed by dancers John and Anna Dixon. It opened with Jeffrey Huston counting slowly to 20 over a murmuring soundtrack of electronic grumblings, rumblings, and squeaks. Each number had an associated movement: reminding me of early Merce Cunningham and John Cage experiments in disconnected but rule driven movement and sound. As the audience called out number sequences, the dancers conducted playful somatic research across an invisible game board. Interruptures included reading snippets of goat-related news from the New York Times and quirky songs, such as  “Little Man, Bigger Goat, ” sung to accordion and ukulele. For John and Anna Dixon, to  “act the goat ” means to charm an audience through giddy, clever cavortings and purportings. If GOAT kept its cards up its sleeve, Ropes Course laid out its hand with a thump. A pair of gung-ho cubicle clones from the fictious Royshaw and Royshaw volunteer for leadership training: two weeks on a raft with motivational exercises in rope tying and such. The piece mocks the self-help style of managerial excesses and the memo-driven office culture of Cubicle Town, along with a few digs at office bowling teams and donuts in the conference room. The choreography was frequently effective, referencing efficiency studies and the white collar version of assembly lines but could not overcome the inevitability of the ending: an inter-office message in a bottle informing the castaways that the Company had closed and could no longer  “facilitate their return. ” Ropes Course reveals the dramatic irony of the self-absorbed minor player discarded by the greater game. With apologies to Tom Stoppard, the piece might be re-titled  “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead But Expected To Show Up on Monday. ” Fever Theater’s performance of New Believers was also concept-driven but had plenty of room for cross talk. An officious narrator poses a series of ponderous philosophical prompts (phew): Explore Infinite Inwardness. Feel Yourself Reaching for Divinity. Explain the Significance of Evidence, Experience, and the Art of Believing While Eating a Blueberry Pie. The gamine Aurora Miller gave a standout performance of jerkily articulated movements and gauche beauty circa Irma la Douche. Perfect as foil were the soft, wide-eyed movements of Amber Whitehall. The lead male dancer, Jacob Coleman, made a yellow sarong look as sexy as I’ve ever seen it. And the Man in the Turban was just, well, a Man in a Turban, as the Narrator sternly reminds us. The ensemble successfully undercuts yet embraces the Search for Meaning, ending with a line dance as they chirp  “Follow Us to the End of the World. ” New Believers  “is all about ” the overuse of initial capitals in empty phrases as solemn pretense. I Laughed; I Cried  ”¦ I loved it. Lastly, audience favorite Waxie Moon’s Extreme Boylesque began with a striking visual image. As Carl Dorf’s music crescendos, Waxie Moon takes his stance wrapped in blue silk scarves blown tantalizingly back against his slender body. At once sublime and ridiculous, the Isadora Duncanesque send up was perfectly Boylesque. Shiny domed Waxie Moon then lets his hair down (or he would have) to dish with the audience. Joan Rivers in drag. Or is that redundant? Then Waxie runs through an ironic re-enactment of the opening number from Chorus Line. Subtle cues such as his waiting for the call for girl, rather than boy, dancers were good fun. But for me, gay camp for camp’s sake fails to deliver a big enough (ahem) package. How does one mock the dinner theater diva beyond letting her hoist herself by her own petard, or in this case, Danskin leotard. You smile as you watch though, and that’s worth a night out any day. - Fabian Linden