ACT Theatre’s Dorothy S. Bullitt Cabaret
April 22–May 15, 2010
Reviewed by Gigi Berardi
Clockwise from top left: KT Niehoff, Bianca Cabrera, Kelly Sullivan, and Ricki Mason. Photo by Kevin Kauer, courtesy Lingo.
Lingo’s daring A Glimmer of Hope or Skin or Light, conceived and directed by artistic director KT Niehoff, is the culminating piece of a collaboration with Seattle’s ACT Theatre and the Seattle Art Museum. Three earlier components were performed throughout Seattle over the past few months, beginning in February. I saw Glimmer close to the end of its three-week run, in a sold-out house still intimate enough for the throngs of viewers to wander through the club-type venue.
Glimmer’s cabaret mood is created with the strident but stirring melodies of the live band (Ivory in Ice World), an original taped score by Scott Colburn, and the theater itself: a seatless cabaret with wide descending staircases, balconies, colonnades, and small tiled dance floors. Reportedly, Niehoff was looking for a “potent environment,” and it would be hard to imagine one more so.
Niehoff and dancer Ricki Mason devised the overall costume design. The “coven” of main dancers —Mason, Bianca Cabrera, Michael Rioux, and Aaron Swartzman—and lead “showgirl” Kelly Sullivan wore white brocades decorated with feathers and tulle; Sullivan sported an audacious white headpiece with shimmering tentacles. Ben Delacreme created the garish, Carnivale-like makeup.
One of the first duets is a lusty romp between Mason and Cabrera, their bodies completely interlocked like a puzzle of convex and concave shapes. At one poignant moment, a dancer’s face rests in the arch of another’s foot. Cabrera’s extreme facial contortions are direct, vital, and scary.
Cabrera, Mason, and the self-absorbed Sullivan are like the wildest yogis, capable of great feats of strength but agile in their tangos and steamy danse apache. The men (Rioux and Swartzman) offer something different in their wrestling—an interplay of ego and alter ego, asking small questions, rather than the larger ones posed by the women.
The seven showgirls (Sruti Desai, Jill Leversee, Morgan Nutt, Erin Simons, Violette Tucker, Kate Wallich, and Hendri Walujo) accent the production both as chorus and gatekeepers, slithering through the audience and whispering erotically to keep everyone alert—and out of the dancers’ way. They counter the robotic movement of the coven with smoother, rhythmic phrases, as if to say, “Touch! Desire! Risk!”
With its iconic showgirls and needy lovers, Glimmer offers beams of hope, pushing the boundaries of relationships and personal desires with an almost unbearable tension—which resolves itself at the end through the full-frontal nude antics of several of the dancers. The garish pantomime is only occasionally too busy. Otherwise, it’s a raucous, daunting thing. Were that theater-vérité was as provocative—and unforgettable.