Red Shoes Revamped and other works
Though I used to do a mean James Brown (“Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”) and a so-so “Electric Slide,” I’m no expert on dance. I can appreciate the choreography and the skills, but lack the technical terms to describe them. That said, I very much enjoyed Erica Buechner and Lara Segura’s works at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center.
In Buechner’s “A Subtle Descent,” seven dancers, arms spread, whirl like living windmills. As in the prologue and between numbers, where Buechner and Nikki Dunnam humorously stop each other from falling, dancers fly into their partners, sideways. The partners make cross-body catches seem effortless.
The piece concludes with an arresting change: everyone lines up stage right. Slowly — an inch at a time slowly, in fact – each moves across the stage, as if drawn to an overpowering something. Like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, the performers shed white outer-garments, almost imperceptibly, and freeze in a final tableau.
(The movement recalls the summer of 1984 where, as part of the Olympic Arts Festival, the Japanese company Sankai Juki scaled down the Spreckels Theatre –—I think that’s where it was — on ropes. The descended in such hyper-slow motion, snails could have beat them to the sidewalk.)
Though you could see the end of the second piece “Two Choose 1” in the beginning (two men can’t touch, they must touch, they touch), the concluding number was as boisterous as “Subtle Descent” was, well, subtle.
Five dancers, dressed in a rainbow of colors, enter as Marilyn Monroe sings “I Wanna Be Loved by You” — or is it “Wuved”? The five frolic with an expressive buoyancy. Then, as a voiceover explains, they perform an instructional piece, “Six Tips on How to Be a Straight Girl,” at once smart and hilarious (“kiss him like the house is on fire, then walk away”; “only ask questions that include the word ‘help’”). They even throw in a modest homage to Busby Berkeley!
Long Way to Midnight
Behind the scenes, Fringe Festivals are about speed. You’ve got maybe nine or ten minutes to haul in your props, and maybe that many to cart them off. After a while, what would seem like foibles to a theater-goer expecting precision become reminders of where we are: lighting cues go amiss; videos may be slightly out of whack. So what??? Hey, lighten up! It’s the Fringe!!
The show must, and does, go on — thanks in large measure to the tenacity and dedication of the performers.
For Long Way, a work-in-progress musical by Jonathan Rosenberg, chairs rolled on and off, and the tinny background score was piped in. The mics often came on after an actor began speaking or singing.
The musical told a too-generic, often-predictable story about a family falling apart and coming together again. It felt slight and calculated (possibly because parts had to be cut to fit the time limit for the Fringe).
What impressed were the actors. They sang and did scenes as if in a glitch-free environment. I wish I could give their names, but programs hadn’t arrived the day I caught the show.
Hey, lighten up! It’s the Fringe!
Along with shows previously mentioned, my ad hoc panel of theater experts said good words about:
- Victor Charlie, Spreckels Off Broadway
- Heartquakes: A California Love Story, Tenth Avenue Arts Center.
- Beau and Aero, at Tenth Ave. Arts Center.
- Red, White, and Blacklisted, Spreckels RAW Space.
- Will Work For, Tenth Ave. Arts Center, Cabaret Space.
- Pretending Things are a C—K, Tenth Ave. Arts Center.
- Ceremony, Tenth Ave. Arts Center.
- The Mending Monologues, Spreckels RAW Space.
- Solo y Juntos – Al Camino del Alma, Lyceum Theatre.
Many more, most likely, to follow.