Apart from the maturity of the artists, the components of “Together Again,” a concert by James Cunningham, Jane Comfort, and Tina Croll (Dance Theater Workshop, March 18, 19, 27, and 28), have in common speech and folding chairs. When a performer sits, eyeballs the audience, and starts talking, an instant bond forms.
Such intimacy is beside the point in Comfort’s Cliffs Notes: Macbeth, which updates her 40-minute 1988 version of Shakespeare’s tragedy for the networked ’90s. Masterfully constructed from the play’s text, the Cliffs exegeses, and current jargon, it shows us Wall Streeters dealing shares of the Birnam Wood Corporation and Dunsinane International, and grips us with bloodthirsty traders, a manipulative corporate wife, and witches who transform themselves from power-hungry rock stars to office help. Rebecca Wisocky terrifies as Lady Macbeth, and Joseph Ritsch is appropriately elusive as the doomed warrior.
As sweet as Comfort’s work is acrid, Cunningham’s BBB traverses a row of chairs in an endearing series of anecdotes. He sings, recites poetry sublime and silly, evokes a religious fanatic and the Queen of England debased by commercial television. In short, he’s an international treasure.
Another snippet of his wry reminiscences surfaces in More From the Horse’s Mouth, which revisits an elegant score he launched last summer with Croll. Dancers of a certain age, dressed in black with tiny red accents, course across the bare space, plucking instructions from boxes on chairs. They dance, alone and with the person ahead or behind, and then each one, a bit short of breath, sits down and talks for 90 seconds. It’s hard to say what was more wonderful: watching Cathy Kerr, fiftyish former member of Merce Cunningham’s troupe, pick her way with the same birdlike intensity she had in the ’70s, or listening to her and her cohorts tell their crisp stories. The population of performers shifts from show to show, but the ingenious structure stays steady, and the pleasures, like the artists, ripen.