The Language of Walls Club Guy and Roni Jacob’s Pillow, July 5–8 Reviewed by Emily Macel
When entering the world of Club Guy and Roni you have the sense that you’ve arrived there by mistake—you’re eavesdropping on barely audible conversations and peeking into a private party. Yet the performers are exhibitionists: They welcome the audience in and speak to us directly, telling stories that have no point, and coyly eyeing us up to make sure they’ve got our full attention. And they do. We stare at moments of aggression, disgust, beauty and fascination. We laugh at anecdotes, perhaps unrightfully so, or uncomfortably so. The Doris Duke Studio Theatre at Jacob’s Pillow was transformed into a dark, elusive scene of turmoil by the Netherlands-based troupe, who appeared as part of “NL: A Season of Dutch Arts in the Berkshires.” Founders of the company, Israeli chorographers Roni Haver (who performed as well) and Guy Weizman, presented a work of dance theatre that is imbued with danger, sexuality, high-strung emotions, and even moments of peace—in short, what they called “sisterhood and the female expression.” The Language of Walls is a fierce testament to what the body and mind can—and do—endure. The six women perform the choreography with abusive intensity. They switch over to pedestrian language and movements before eerily slinking back into the angular, abrasive thralls of the movement score. Haver screams out directives that sound like a drill sergeant commanding her troops at the front lines. The music, a score composed, recorded, and performed by drummer Elad Cohen, is wild and loud. Walls is composed of several vignettes of unusual stories and interludes, strung together by unison sections danced with calculated abandon—these women throw themselves about as if explosions were going over at their feet and they were hurled unsuspectingly across stage. Yet they showed complete control when they would erupt from the floor as quickly as they had landed. In one vignette, Dunja Jocic stands center stage and removes her underwear from beneath her dress, then taunts the audience, moving in ways that suggest she is going to reveal herself—but never does. In another segment, Melanie Lane speaks with a sweet baby-talk voice and tries to walk seductively across stage, yet her limbs are not cooperating. Her legs give out and she holds onto furniture then arches back and touches her body before collapsing to the floor. A three-level buffet that looks like it would fit nicely into a quaint bed-and-breakfast acts as a portal into the dark, neurotic world where three dancers, Haver, Eva Puschendorf and Yvonne Weschke dance in their own claustrophobic level. It’s nerve wracking to watch their bodies slide back and forth, shaking the entire unit. Then, the contortionism becomes a disappearing act, and Haver and Puschendorf disappear from the unit. When Weschke flings the doors open, the dancers have disappeared and a stuffed raven takes the place of the top dancer. In the most tender of moments throughout the 65-minute work, Emilie Birraux stands at a microphone and sings a beautiful, emotional ballad while she pulls out ketchup packets, rips them open with her teeth, then squeezes the condiment onto her wrists as a symbolic suicide. The other dancers follow suit, and join in the vocals, and the suicide, each one reacting in different ways to the pain they’ve inflicted. Some deflate, some fall down, and Lane stands center stage and sobs loudly, and childishly. Jocic comes forward and makes fun of her suicidal friends’ response, turning the devastating scene around into something peculiar and humorous. In the end, you leave feeling both hopeful and hopeless. But mainly, you leave feeling exhausted and sensorially shocked by the troupes incredible intensity.