By Alexis Soloski
By Molly Grogan
By R. C. Baker
By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Alexis Soloski
By Alexis Soloski
By Lilly Lampe
In the end, the performers start racing around, discarding most of their clothes, divesting themselves of plot and character. Theyre leaping, gamboling, frisking, eating up space, having a wonderful time. Theres also a coda that extends beyond the end of the piece and the bows and cheers. Three completely new performers run down the aisle, one of them dressed like Boulé. They cluster and giggle around a large, mysterious rectangle of dim green light thats been there before. As we exit, theyre still repeating their pattern of three or so moves. Teenagers, a swimming pool. It could all start over again.
I wish Id seen Bill Young and Colleen Thomass original Life (In Progress) last year in their studio theater at 100 Grand Street. Not that Life (In Progress) IIs scenic and lighting designer Rebecca Makus didnt do a splendid job of turning DNAs performance space into a combination of a home workspace (bed, couches, tables, chairs, garments strung on clotheslines) and a run-down 70s-style discothèque (a cluster of chairs, pillows, cocktail tables with cheap candy and beads for the audience to make use of, balloons falling into the room). Its just that I think Id have enjoyed this new crazy quilt of events more had I seen it in a truly homey setting; the vivid, imaginative scraps might have shone even more brightly and the threadbare ones been more forgivable. (And I might have felt freer to adjust my seat, as the program advised, or grab something from the mini-bar whenever I felt like it.)
Young and Thomas invited a number of dancers theyd worked with before to join them in both making the piece and performing in it. And theyre all terrific when the spotlight falls on them in episodes ranging from goofy to alarmingmost of them supported in one way or another by Georgio Kontos and Daniel Cliftons sound design (itself a potpourri). No strong thread runs through Life (whose title implies that both it and life itself are an ongoing project), unless you count the peculiar gender-toppling tale concocted by Bryan Kepple and Alfonso Suarez thats revealed in intermittent episodespartly via Jason Sommas videos of other spaces inside and outside the building, partly in a corner of the room. Over the course of the two-hour evening, glamorous Susan Murray (Kepple) comes home from work and yoga class, gets dolled up, pours herself a drink or two, and sets the table (occasionally watched by a mysterious detective, played by Suarez). The Man of Her Dreams (Edith Raw) arrives at Susans door. But somehow, when the excited hostess is in her kitchen, she forgets that shes turned on the gas without lighting it. Oops! She dies. But shes reincarnated (?) in a different wig and gown and brings the evening to a close by singing very soulfully that great song, What Now My Love?
Whether you change seats or not, your head gets a workout, turning to watch this or that area of the room. Its a busy place. Even when, say, Thomas, as a shrink whose time slots are shorter than the amount of time it takes to buy a Metrocard, is questioning Julia Burrer, Ted Johnson and Jenna Riegel are humping with bored determination on another couch, Darrin Wright and Marc Mann are curled up on the bed, Anthony Phillips is writing his often witty assessments of Thomass patients on a big pad, and Pedro Osorio, Megan McQuillan, Clifton, and Young are lurking or lounging somewhere. Never have I noticed so many doors leading out of the space.
Sommas projected live-feed videos are a major force in the work. They not only give some spectators a better view, but offer different perspectives on what we see. Here are some of the highlights of the evening. Burrer performs bedroom salsa with Osorio, whos harnessed and dancing on the wall, while the tilted video puts her horizontal to the floor. Young, Johnson, and Riegel vault and wrestle and tumble over, on, and around one another and a not very large table in a flood of daredevil maneuvers. Burrer and Thomas (first seen simultaneously live and on video in one open doorway and in the space beyond it) dance in strenuous unison while laughingly playing something like that maddening kids game in which one person repeats whatever the other says). Phillips briefly pulls down his trousers to reveal red-feathered panties, and struts like a rooster in between bouts of writing about the therapy session. When a big, swooping duet between Thomas and Mann ends with them tangling on the floor, McQuillanwatched closely by Sommas cameragravely duplicates their positions with little artists mannequins.
The dancing, as always in Youngs work, is luscious, earthy, fluid. The rough-and-tumble daring of itwhether conceived as passionate or challenging or playfulis ultimately life-affirming. I look forward to seeing him and/or Thomas choreograph through-composed pieces again.