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August 2009 Archives

August 8, 2009

Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant (SoHo Think Tank/Ice Factory 2009, Ohio Theatre, New York - Directed by Eamonn Farrell. Runs until August 8, 2009)

Conni's-3.jpg (L-R): Muffin Character Hanshake and General Molar, the dog. Photo by Sue Kessler

The troupe that comprises Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant provides a three-hour performance interspersed with the serving of food: soup, salad, sandwich, and dessert, washed down with pitchers of sangria. The performance, made up of songs, dance routines, stand-up patter, and audience participation, roughly follows the story of aging diva Muffin Character Hanshake's struggle with the decision whether to have a child ("roughly" because coherent narrative is hardly the goal of the evening). It's all a lot of fun, and the food and performances are top-notch.
The name comes from the group's discovery, while in Maine, of an abandoned restaurant with the moniker they now use, which prompted them to begin a journey of providing dinner with theatre without becoming a dinner theatre. They bill themselves as "avant garde," but they are much more musical hall than "avant," and they're committed to providing an entertaining evening that is a bit bawdy, a bit cheeky, a bit risky, but with none of these qualities pushed hard enough to make anyone uncomfortable or even meditative.
What else is left to say? Everyone had a good time and left the theatre well-nourished. Of how many evenings of theatre can that be said these days?

Michael Bettencourt

August 24, 2009

Urbanopolis by Suspended Cirque (Galapagos Art Space in Dumbo, Brooklyn - August 14, 15, and 16, 2009)

suspendedcirque-cr.jpg Performers: Joshua Dean, Michelle Dortignac, Angela Jones, and Kris Olness. Photography: Kenneth Feldman (KPF Digital)

URBANOPOLIS, created by Suspended Cirque, follows a young man as he (in the words of their press release) "falls into a futuristic urban labyrinth where sirens crawl along steel girders, a dying phoenix plays her violin as women float in chains, a mechanical doll comes to life and everything spins out of control. With the help of a mischievous pan-like creature, our young man tries to find his way back home."
The performance plays out in four acts, each about 20 minutes long (with ten-minute intermissions for selling drinks in the cabaret-style seating at Galapagos). In each of the acts, members of the troupe contort themselves for the young traveler in the most amazing ways upon a variety of aerial devices comprised of ropes, bars, strips of colored cloth, and rotating metal wheels as well as their acrobatics on the metal railings and walls that surround the seating areas. The characterizations are broad and mythic -- Man, Pan, Serpents, Sirens, Phoenix -- and the story fabulistic.
Through these incredible skilled presentations a story of tale of sorts does unfold as the journeyer moves through what Suspended Cirque calls "this urban jungle," a story about being lost, beguiled, tempted, and eventually redeemed. Pan and a trio of Sirens, who also play the Serpents, appear to lead the traveler astray while a violin-playing Phoenix, Orpheus-like, reclaims his soul. The piece ends with a jaw-droppingly beautiful display by the troupe members using double lengths of colored cloth that they twine around their bodies in intricate wraps that allow them to do aerial splits, hanging crosses, falls, and spins.
All of this is great fun. Suspended Cirque is inventive in its choreography, clever in its staging, and cheeky in its performance (Act 2 contains a wonderful comic trio of two Sirens and the Man playing the Habanera from Bizet's "Carmen," they on clarinet and piano, he on alto sax). The classic tale of descent and ascent, interspersed with temptation and redemption, is just an excuse for these lithe and impressive performers to show off their skills and creativity, which is the real show worth watching.

Michael Bettencourt

About August 2009

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