The larger of the two males is quicker to adopt a defensive posture, but also more apt to swagger. The slighter one seems to understand the uses of stillness to fake out his challenger. When negotiations fail, they howl or bang their chests together.
I’m not talking about rutting gorillas, but about David Dorfman and Dan Froot in Live Sax Acts. Their wonderful duets–Horn (1990), Bull (1994), and Job (1996)–explore the twisty byways of masculinity. What give their collaborations grit and poignancy as well as hilarity are the brainy ways they affirm that it’s not just a jungle out there; it’s a jungle in here. Between heart and brain, instinct and learned behavior, a guy can fall into a pit.
The works form a provocative triptych. Horn, which has almost no talking, is both the most primal and the most open to interpretation. The men’s entrance–Dorfman lugging Froot, who’s hanging upside down from his shoulder, both of them kilted, both playing saxophones–sets up what’s to come. Froot has the edge on the sax, and he’s more portable, but God forbid he should be comfortable with that. Saxes make good symbols (Dorfman holds Froot down and tempts him with an instrument; Froot raises his head like an infant seeking the nipple). The counterpoint of melody and blatting beats, of rocking bodies and jigging feet, knocks home a saga of professional rivalry and suppressed tenderness.
In Bull and Job, ingenious wordplay becomes another kind of music. Whether Froot and Dorfman periodically change the text or improvise within set parameters, the whip-smart dialogue and rhythmic rantings always seem spontaneous (surely no one could make up on the spot the fantasy occupations they riff on in Bull: Froot proofreads sublet forms). Bull is a series of encounters, like rounds in a boxing match, between the tuxedoed (but barefoot) pair; they assess each other’s face-slapping and crotch-grabbing with falsely cheerful politesse and vent their rage by chanting it into bullhorns. In Job‘s more complicated narrative, their wheeling and dealing (glaring at each other across a table, hunkered down the better to snatch at least two of the four phones) blossoms into a metaphor for the way they manage their friendship and creative collaborations, revealing the insecurity lurking behind the bluster. Dorfman offers a deal on self-respect; Froot waves it away: “I don’t know how to use that stuff.”
It’s not only these artists’ wit, terrific performing, and loony imagination that delight us, but their transparency and depth and basic sweetness. During a fantasy sequence in Bull, the bulky, midsized Dorfman decides he’s “six foot seven . . . and petite at the same time.” And you know what? He is.
**Free art gets ’em every time. And a title like Vivaldi Carnivale lures both music lovers and kids in strollers to Lincoln Center’s South Plaza. Aficionados of baroque dance also swarm to find seats (they’re waiting, as well, for Catherine Turocy’s New York Baroque Ensemble to appear in Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme in mid September).
For the outdoor event, James Richman’s Concert Royal is on tape–Vivaldi’s The Seasons blasting at the decibel level of rock. It’s a balmy night, and the plaza looks lovely; playing areas–little white bridges–are spaced amid the trees so spectators on all sides have something to see. Giving everyone a visual treat keeps the elaborately garbed performers on the run. In this slight tale of fate joining and separating two lovers (Turocy and Carlos Fittante), nine dancers almost constantly wreathe among the trees, chase one another elegantly over bridges, and whisper confidences on benches. To host each season, one dancer dons an animal mask (unicorn, peacock, owl, or white stag). Puppets, choreographed and directed by Jane Stein, also represent the lovers in fraught
encounters, while larger, fierce-faced dolls try to keep them apart.
The plot tends to diffuse in the carnival atmosphere, but the visions are so entrancing, no one much cares. Drama peaks when masked and cloaked Fate (Elmar Streeter) orders winter’s deer to gore Fittante. Fortunately, spring returns. Opening night’s most thrilling moment: nature, stimulated by Vivaldi’s stormy winter Allegro, sends a wind to tousle the trees, and suddenly millions of leaves join the dance.