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David Grenke’s ambitious new work for Thingsezisee’m Dance/Theater risked alienating us with deliberate distancing and artificiality, gleaming armature, and glitter. Savage/Love divided Pace Downtown Theater into three tiers—the stage floor, a high, massive platform, and the space between the edge of the stage and the audience. A man in a silvery vest wriggled like a gecko under a shower of plastic confetti—a pretty prelude to a long, hellish Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin story told in interwoven monologues and the company’s alternately static, extenuated, and frozen movement. Heads swiveled. Torsos pivoted. Arms stuck out or drifted for no reason. A wild-eyed antihero begged to know who his lover imagined—Brando? Beatty? Jagger? Speech patterns sputtered until I wanted to search my bag for fresh batteries. For a while, the music’s faint tooting evoked Morse code, and video projections of the desperate man’s words faded like smoke rings. A failure to communicate—but I got Grenke’s ugly message.
My inner child loved every second of Back to Creation, the vest-pocket psychedelic extravaganza by Akim Funk Buddha and his singing, dancing, music-making Dha-Fuzion crew (P.S. 122). Maybe it was the pulsing sounds, zoned-out video, or nonstop action that made me regress. Or maybe it was Buddha himself—can I really call him that?—a U.S.-born and reared Zimbabwean of protean talent. Knocked upside the head by Giuliani’s cops, he falls down the rabbit hole to destiny. There, among wild things too numerous to relate, he meets a wry guru (hilarious Father Laraaji) and tangles with kimono-clad Cat Dragon (brilliant Chikako Iwahori), battling her in fierce kung fu and tap dance competition. All fables should be this fabulous!