New Storytelling

My Sister Was a Refugee, a work in progress and the third piece Garfield has made about her family, is marvelously performed by the beleaguered Lynch-John and the much smaller and fiercer Townsend. An old song presents the smarmy ideal: two brothers, unselfish as little chaps, heroic in battle. The women's side-by-side unison, however, is marred by irritable twitches; and from then on, through Patsy Cline wailing "I love you so much it hurts me" and other ditties of awful love, the two endure sisterhood's teetery alliances and acts of terrorism. Even though drawn out, My Sister is the most wonderful piece on the program—tender and terrible.

For Koosil-ja Hwang, whose program followed Garfield's into Playhouse 91, the stage is an unpredictably altering terrain, against which she dissects identity and relationships so thoroughly that an audience entranced by her images and confident she knows what she's doing may defer, perhaps forever, certainty about "meaning."

The dizzying shifts in her to-be-expanded Anatomy of Happiness are reinforced and sometimes carried into nightmare by Yoshihide Otomo's score, Carol Mullins's lighting, and Caspar Stracke's sensational video collage. Stracke backs a dance by Hwang, Margaret Hallisey, and Mary Helene Spring with a hair-raising split-screen drive through a nearly deserted tunnel (a motif). A bizarre performance scene of wild-haired women unwrapping another's mummy bands shares the backdrop with a man slowly driving a donkey cart. Cary Grant races toward a camera, followed by Hollywood Indians on horses. Occasionally video and live action move in the same orbit; emphatic dancing works to stitch mysteries together.

Details

Guy Klucevsek
The Kitchen
Through April 1

Arthur Aviles Typical Theatre
Bronx Academy of Arts & Dance
Through April 1

Keely Garfield's Sinister Slapstick
Koosil-ja Hwang/Dance

Kumikok Imoto
Playhouse 91

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The one man in the piece, the remarkable Michael Portnoy, assumes various identities. He is the soft-voiced Arab embarking on romance with a German woman many years his senior (Hwang). Avoiding each other's eyes, they circle, a long rod holding them apart. Portnoy and Hallisey are paired as robots, analyzing, with bafflement, human courtship rituals. At the end, as their batteries run down, they're reaching for each other, and Portnoy is struggling to complete the word "love." He and Spring, assuming Southern accents, evoke a more enigmatic social picture—perhaps of a bygone era (Portnoy also does a brief "Yes, Massa" bit).

It's futile to wonder why the three women cast their eyes skyward, throw their arms out, and say "Rain!" in high, hyperenthusiastic voices. Or why a white monkey sits, almost catatonic, in a hot spring, while the robots creak into immobility. Hwang, who spends intermission running in an exhausted circle around Portnoy, attached to him by a rope around her waist, is an artist who prods forgotten areas of the brain.

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