Imaginary Lives

Talk about site-specific! In a striking raw space in DUMBO (the Stable) that once sheltered police horses, J Mandle Performance has constructed its own performing and viewing arena for Feast(through April 6). Julia Mandle de Bever, whose gifts are for architectural design and costume, has set up a slanted bank of department store windows into which spectators are invited to peer, moving around at will on three tiers. She farmed out the choreography for her four dancer-mannequins to Beppie Blankert, a specialist in coaxing significance from slowed-down, unaccented pedestrian movement. According to the program note, Plato's Symposium inspired the piece, and most of the action is related to dining and fucking, the latter in ménages à deux and à trois that turn the viewers into voyeurs. The look of the thing is handsome, like an ultra-chic magazine animated into a tantalizing (and ravishingly clothed) half-life.

It helps to be well-read to enjoy Alexandra Beller and Mira Kingsley's engaging, sophisticated dance theater piece We Sink as We Run (a Dixon Place production at University Settlement, February 21 through March 2). Its three key scenes set up imaginary encounters between literary and legendary ladies: Chekhov's two disconsolate Mashas; a pair who famously disappeared, Amelia Earhart and Agatha Christie; and two suicides, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. Given such heroines, it's inevitable that the opposite sex is taken to task—for spouse abuse, undermining female potential, or just being male when a lesbian might offer richer partnering. But there's more to this piece than standard feminist agitprop. It explores the marvelous human ability to experience disparate emotions simultaneously. Even at the height of tragedy, Beller and Kingsley propose, we are assailed and relieved by the ridiculous. In two of their most touching passages, rage, fear, and grief give way to irrepressible, life-affirming laughter.

 
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