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Made in L.A. – Los Angeles Theater Review

 

A TRIPLE DELIGHT

 

picture - Made in LATheater Review

by Tony Frankel 

published June 24, 2010 

 

Made in L.A.

Recently played in Los Angeles at the John Anson Ford Theatre 

 

Made in L.A. at the John Anson Ford theatre on June 18 involved three local Los Angeles groups you should keep an eye out for: Bodytraffic (www.bodytraffic.com), the L.A. Contemporary Dance Company (www.ladanceco.org), and the powerfully original and compelling a capella group, Sonos (www.sonosings.com).

 

The Los Angeles-based company Bodytraffic opened the multi-disciplinary evening with "Transfigured Night," inspired by Abraham Joshua Heschel’s short book, "The Sabbath," a philosophy of life based on the meaning of Judaism – specifically, the human relation to space and time. Rather heady stuff, but an appropriate theme for a piece that commemorates art and music banned during the Holocaust. Israeli choreographers Guy Weizman and Roni Haver use contemporary choreography to great effect in the exploration of these themes.

 

The company of six moved robustly throughout. Struggle was embodied by rapid arm movements and repetitive pliés, like birds with their feet caught in a trap, but it was the silent floor section that highlighted their athletic prowess best.  When the troupe danced in unison at this point, the sense of liberation was palpable with each leap and stretch.

 

picture - Made in LAThe smaller duets and trios focused on emotional entanglements and the balance of work and rest. The dancers conveyed emotions amazingly well, but due to the lack of narrative structure, it was somewhat difficult to relate to their plight.

 

"Transfigured Night" gets its name from “Verklarte Nacht,” a haunting and passionate Schoenberg string sextet in one movement. The Nazi-banned composition is gorgeous, but long sections of silence were inserted into the Opus, no doubt signifying space. Thematically, it was a strong choice, but the editing felt oddly unsettling. It is amazing to watch the dancers keep perfect meter in the silence, however, and their synchronization was flawless.

 

The set designed by Ascon de Nijs is made up of thirteen twelve-foot light poles that, with the help of the dancers, change angles throughout the piece. They are meant to depict crumbling architecture during World War II and, although the fluorescence casts an appropriate ghostly pallor on the stage, they do not highlight the most important element well: the dancers.

 

Oddly enough, the dancers of L.A. Contemporary Dance Company were also not the highlight of "Gods and Marionettes," an ambitious piece which investigates the question of who is responsible when tragedy occurs, the Gods or us. Director/Choreographer Kate Hutter uses theatre (one actor), dance (the LADCD dancers), and song (Sonos) to tell the story of Electra as it relates to modern headlines.

 

picture - Made in LAReally, forget the tale. I had no idea it was even about Electra. It felt more like musings on integrity versus blame. But who cares? The success of this World Premiere emanated from the agile and dramatic dance troupe (portraying Gods and humans) seamlessly blending with the six members of Sonos (the Greek chorus). The singers seamlessly moved about the stage while dancers cavorted around them. The choreography was a knockout and Sonos is an electrifying force unto its own: they sound like an orchestra, especially given the beat-boxing of multi-talented Ben McLain. You must watch out for Sonos.

 

Ultimately, the enjoyable whole of "Gods and Marionettes" was irrelevant to the sum of its parts. Actor Will Harris delivered David Bridel’s funny and thought-provoking text as if he was leading a marketing seminar, but when Mr. Harris opened his pipes to deliver the closing number, it was extraordinarily rousing - as was the entire night.

 

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

 

photos by Eric Mason (top and bottom) and Kristine Slipson (middle)

 

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