Moving Men

Two Downtown Choreographers Switch Tactics

Health insurance is a big issue for these dancers. It takes only a quick gabbled prayer for God to bring Lazarus to life. "Cool!" exclaims the revived Kenison, bouncing up into a split-second scene demonstrating that appeals to God will not get you into a hospital if you've got no insurance. Mood and style change with the speed of MTV cuts, but absurdity and exaggerated jokiness somehow actually support poignancy. A character played by Hilton, for instance, tells a wonder fully weird story about her husband, who measures the tendencies of tides by planting tiny computerized figures of sunbathers on beaches all over the world. She's happy, so are her kids. Suddenly her mate dies; suddenly a pain flames in her gut. She's about to tell us the sad reason when the others interrupt, fussing about getting into a diagonal to create a strong dramatic effect. A few seconds later, Zuccolo becomes the doctor who says her insurance won't cover the new treatment, and then a son (hers?) sobbing over his mom's death. Hilton stands quietly. "Oh kids...," she says apologetically, and the impudent chorus members become angels and fly beautifully around her.

Enforced religious education, the treatment of Alzheimer's patients, gay bashing, the tyranny of "family values," and many other grievances crop up, often couched in bitter comedy. Olson bossily organizes a Grieving Group (because, it turns out, she's so terribly sad). O'Connor's startling juxtapositions risk irritating spectators. Parkinson delivers a serious speech about how upset she is over the plight of refugees hounded from their home land. Instantly, Besserer and Olson break into "Home on the Range," but the syrupy cliché doesn't annoy us, perhaps because their slow song and dance has unexpected words and an unfamiliar tune sweetly delivered in two-part harmony (composer James Baker may have been responsible).

Heavy sobs and hearty artificial laughter punctuate the goings-on, but O'Connor has created a work that is both hilarious and truly sad. The unison dance passages are a refuge for the performers, but also impose an order not of their choosing. The comedy acts as an antidote to swarming worries: How will I die? How will I live? How can I intervene in the world's injustices? Ha, ha, ha!

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