Dance Theater Workshop, NYC
April 1–4, 2010
Reviewed by Mary Love Hodges
Tony Orrico, Jesse Zaritt, and Lindsay Clark in
There is so much mad in me. Photo by Yi-Chun Wu, Courtesy DTW.
There is so much mad in me
opens on a void. The stage is empty and pitch black, though with the house lights on, the fringe of gray marley at the front of the stage is visible. It’s as though the audience is peering over the edge of a cliff. The vignettes that unfold in this space—funny, frightening, and familiar—seem invoked by a magic mirror that, as in fairy tales, distorts the truth so that it can be seen more clearly.
That illusion of magic comes from the talents of choreographer Faye Driscoll, her exceptional cast of nine dancers, and Amanda K. Ringger’s simple but potent lighting design. Exploring extreme states and voyeuristic urges in a shifting brew of dance and theater, everything bleeds together in this evening: rage and ecstasy, competitive fire and total surrender, stealing the spotlight and pushing it onto someone else.
Michael Helland bounces a spread-legged, upside-down Nikki Zialcita over his groin, then around his body. She bobbles, passive then demanding, humping then giggling, until she succumbs to rapture, which in turn induces a proud body-slapping dance solo. The group gathers around her to cheer her on. The whole sequence occurs over just a few minutes.
The entire work is as dense as that passage: slippery but precise, with each moment welded masterfully to the last. Later in the performance, Adaku Utah channels fierce game show hosts, berating her contestants, then rallying them together. The moment dissolves into a Frankenstein of exploitative television when Zialcita is introduced as a victim of great atrocities (war, poverty), but worst of all, her husband has cheated on her with another man! Her glorified savior Utah announces she has just won a new car—and the entire cast goes wild.
Unlike some dance theater hybrids, Driscoll’s work relies heavily on the movement itself to communicate. She uses text with some restraint—and to considerable effect—but this is a body show and her movers deliver with lush, articulate performances that say in dance what cannot be expressed in words.
Another of Driscoll’s talents is her skill for transitions. Scenes change into other scenes in a way that feels more significant than the scenes themselves. In a desperate attempt to keep the overstimulation going, performers switch gears from violence to sex to vanity to voyeurism. Everything is an aggressive action, and when momentum lulls, chinks of panic show through what might otherwise be mere boredom. Dancers look at each other as if suddenly naked. Their addiction to zest, made deliberately transparent in the moments-between, reminds us that our cultural obsession with invasive TV and Twitter outbursts is akin to the snake eating its own tail, the cycle feeding itself.