The Chocolate Factory Serves Up Multimedia Pasta with redevelop (death valley)


An experimental multimedia performance piece is something you sometimes have to take on its own terms, but Brian Rogers’s redevelop (death valley) drives a hard bargain. Almost as hard, you might say, as the alpha males of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, some of whose foulmouthed lines redevelop re-appropriates at one point—to limited effect, as the production is neither testosterone-soaked nor particularly given to perceptible irony (until maybe the little punch-line of an ending that I won’t completely spoil). Whether you love or hate classic quips like “Only one thing counts in this world: Get them to sign on the line which is dotted. You hear me you fuckin’ faggots?”— having them repeated over and over like mantras by a female performer yields diminishing returns, and begs for a coherent motivation. The context here doesn’t suggest one.

A sort of half-boiled conceptuality plagues Rogers’s new composition, a cut-up montage combining film, food, dance, and theater in the service of exploring the fates of living spaces. He piles on a lot of elements, but they form a jumble more than they synergize into meaning. This is partially the point: to suggest the messiness and dislocation inherent in stacking residents and cultures on top of each other in time. But something else was needed, especially because the work relies more on its metaphoric import than its perceptual power.

Rodgers’s choreography is intentionally hidden from the audience’s sight by a suspended grid of plastic panels, which serve as projector screens for often indecipherably grainy footage of ghost towns in the Southwest and ridiculously zoomed-in live shots of the occluded dancers themselves. On the occasions that allow a glimpse of the dancers’ tiny, barely enacted body movements—the tightly controlled juking, the delicate manipulation of a sock up and down—they appear novel to be sure, and clearly take physical talent. But they start to take on an air of the unintentionally comic, and the ponderous mood allows for little humorous release. Combined with Chris Peck’s cacophonous noise score and the Chocolate Factory’s cramped seating, the net effect is a low-level discomfort, and not in that good, unsettling sort of way.

The sensory situation does improve dramatically as the pungent smell of fresh-cooked Italian pasta begins to waft into the audience toward the performance’s end, and the plastic panels are taken away to reveal its source. I’ll just say a meal is cooked and partly eaten on stage, and in the interest of thorough criticism, I sampled it with permission. It was excellent. The texture of the tagliatelle was a perfect al dente, and though the tomato sauce, like most food, couldn’t muster any conceptual significance, it had a subtle yet clear intent, and a lasting savor.