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Arts and Entertainment

Performance Review: NOW 1 @ REDCAT

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The first program of the 5th annual New Original Works Festival at REDCAT opened last week with a whiz-bang!

To start, the three member Cloud Eye Control—Miwa Matreyek, Anna Oxygen and Chi-wang Yang--filled the stage with six feet high screens upon which they projected their two works: Subterranean Heart and Final Space.

In the first, mostly black and white animated images traveled across the screens and, with Oxygen singing high-toned sounds and lyrics, we began our descent into this new world. Oxygen (I’m assuming this is a stage moniker) appeared live amidst the images as well as being drawn or filmed within the two dimensions of the animation. With the juxtaposition of ever changing backgrounds, humans in-the-flesh standing in front of the images and a lab-coated stage crew meandering purposefully, something new and different was always happening. Designs of a human-like form walking within a below-the-surface tunnel, an enlarged skeletal rib cage behind which lurked the titled heart and the center of the screen revealing what seemed to be an actual door were only a few of the many optical delights. These two short pieces were a fantastic peek at what can happen on a stage after Isaac Asimov and Stanley Kubrick.

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The Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project drew on the company's connection to the contemporary West African immigration experience. Sira Kan/On the Road was directed and gracefully and forcefully performed by two men--Olivier Tarpaga and Wilfried Souly, with additional directorial credit to Esther Baker-Tarpaga. Referencing the plight of young people taking dangerous ocean journeys to find a better life, this abstract narrative was filled with evocative physical imagery that kept anchor for the sometimes-diffuse links of events and images. My favorites were the men standing and facing away from the audience while they delicately took a foot off the floor and caressed its sole (wiping sand off?) and the men seated on the floor, their muscular torsos paddling without moving in space. The three mounds of sand, the sweet acoustic guitar song (by performer and guitarist Ibrahim Boro) and the soundscape (by Michael West) added increasing dimension and reality to this canvas. Boro's lyrical melody served as a dynamic counterpoint to an aggressive full-bodied partnering section and West's ambient sounds located the beginning in Africa and the conclusion in a Spanish-speaking country (Canary Islands?).

Theatre Movement Bazaar'sModel Behavior, i.e., The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde re-worked the Robert Louis Stevenson story for a cast of eleven. Directed and choreographed by Tina Kronis and written by Richard Alger, this work in progress included card tricks, a sardonic text with comic edges and a backward glance at the roles of men and women and the skewed morals of the time: i.e., the program listed all the women as either/both Maid or Prostitute.

My highlight was the song and dance for the staff of housekeepers in white aprons, black dresses and stockings: lyrics that identified their domestic activities and tightly coordinated gestures that further illustrated their responsibilities in this Victorian world.

The focus on the double life of our title character was secondary to these tangents and made for an ongoing series of comments on our social history. The ensemble's tight performance was also quite impressive. Things moved briskly and seamlessly and, with this a large cast, that is no easy feat. The full-length production should surface in early 2009.

photo of Movement Theatre Bazaar courtesy of CalArts Photography