The dancer-actors speak words drawn from 85 interviews Newson and others conducted; most of the terrifying stories are those of men and women from immigrant cultures—some of them raised in Britain, others asylum-seekers who escaped to what they knew to be a tolerant country in terms of anti-discrimination laws. However, ultra-conservative British Christians (heard on tape) speak of homosexuality as a curable abomination, anti-gay violence crops up, and songs by such Jamaican reggae artists as Buju Banton, whose “Boom Bye Bye” advocate the killing and burning of gays. In some Islamic neighborhoods, religious customs supersede the laws of the land.

The stories emerge through the doors in Uri Omi’s set of wooden walls, and seep through its windows. Surfaces become blackboards on which a graffiti splurge of hate messages develops. While Dan Canham delivers one of those in-denial “I don’t think I’m gay” speeches, behind him, on a wheeled-in wall, Langolf rapidly draws sardonic arrows and symbols; when Canham convinces himself of his own virtuousness, he gets a chalk halo and wings. A live performer in a morphing projection of chalked rooms (by video artists Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler) puts out his hand, and a virtual door opens. Projected phrases penetrate a front scrim and appear in receding layers.

Fear, hatred, confusion, self-doubt, and occasional joy thread through the overlapping episodes. Many speakers try to reconcile religious belief with sexual preferences. An African woman (played by Coral Messam) saw her lover nearly killed (“a bottle in her ass”), but she’s a Christian, and she still prays. A convert to Islam (Seke Chimutengwende), one of whose ex-lovers was an imam, is certain that the Koran denounces only anal rape but avoids consensual anal intercourse just in case he’s wrong.

Jane Comfort’s "An American Rendition": Ellen Smith, Lisa  
Niedermeyer, Leslie Cuyjet, and Jessica Anthony.
Arthur Elgort
Jane Comfort’s "An American Rendition": Ellen Smith, Lisa Niedermeyer, Leslie Cuyjet, and Jessica Anthony.


Jane Comfort and Company
The Duke on 42nd Street
September 24 through 28 DV8 Physical Theatre
Alexander Kasser Theater
Montclair State University
October 2 through 5

The “dancing” is profoundly organic. A well-behaved 15-year-old from Hull told his Muslim father and brother he was gay and was stabbed by them in an alley and left for dead. Ankur Bahl recounts this while jumping rope with amazing virtuosity—his rhythms responding to those of his memories and thoughts. A married Muslim (also Bahl) loves a married non-Muslim man and loves to dance—both forbidden; however, as long as he keeps this secret from the outside world (but maybe not from his wife), he thinks he’ll be fine. All the time he talks, he dances in the Bharata Natyam style, while his lover (Langolf) imitates him. Ermira Goro spins and spins around the stage while speaking as a 70-year-old rabbi who’s too tired to continue combating the destructive aspects of religion. Ira Mandela Siobhan notes his Catholic education while rippling his body fantastically to the fierce music emerging from the DJ booth on wheels; behind him, the DJ (Paradigmz) echoes his moves. When Rafael Pardillo convulses his torso, the act becomes an ordeal. After gays are likened to animals, the cast prances wearing horseheads and holding up letters of the alphabet to form a variety of ugly catchwords. All join in a rhythmic bonding dance while seated on chairs. The last image as Beky Stoddart’s lights dim is of Chimutengwende shaking his hands faster and faster overhead as he leaves his ultimate judging to the God he still believes in.

I applaud Peak Performances at Monclair State for sponsoring not only many notable premieres in dance, theater, and music, but for presenting groups who’re not currently booked for New York appearances. DV8 Physical Theatre, sad to say, hasn’t performed in the U.S. for 15 years.

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