Dark Matters: Spectacular and Good Feb 18, 2011

by Josh

Take away any gender connotations from the term Patriarchal Power, and it seems like the best term to describe Kidd Pivot Frankfurt RM's "Dark Matters." Can an artist’s creation take such a hold, that it can literally take over their creator's lives? Crystal Pite's creation has that certain quality to it, generating the type of ambiguity that begs to be analyzed further. The performance was the one of the most memorable things I have seen this season, both in terms of the energy and the creativity presented by the piece. 

Take for example the performance's first scene, which presents a room fit for only those comfortable with the most dark and uninhabitable existence. The walls are made of paper, ax's made of cardboard and the world appears only to be lightly sketched, removed from reality and taken into a realm fit for the tallest fantasy. The lighting is low, lit almost exclusively by a lone searching spotlight and a hanging ceiling lamp; the perfect setting for a twisted killer puppet. 

Dark Matters separates itself into two components, the first and second act. The first act sets itself up a more linear, as it is described in the program, Frankenstein like affair. With the second act seeming to strip down all the dramatic elements of setting and plot for a very simplified, slower paced, more conventional modern dance piece; a nearly bare set, dancer's dance. 

The first act of the piece is nearly flawless. With it's completely original, exciting, moody, twisted, dark, fantastic, amazing, thought provoking, femur breaking …WOW. My extensive use of adjectives, I hope expresses the power of Dark Matters first sequences. The set literally falls apart. People die. Everything that you don't know you want out of a show that involves puppets is here, including comedic Kung Fu! The show manages to be dense and entertaining at the same time. I went into the intermission on such an art induced high, it was rather alarming. Comments like the typically cliché, "You think people would have thought of everything" becomes unexpectedly agreeable. 

Then someone prophetically asked,” I wonder where she will go from here? The answer is unfortunately, I don't know. 

For such a rapidly moving first act, Act Two seems to be set on a strange slow simmer.  Gone are the elaborate sets and narrative of the first sequences, instead we get simply the vocabulary of dance. A typically wonderful thing, but in the context of Dark Matter it just fells like I was engaged on so many different levels, only to have the rug of continuity pulled out from under me. Simplicity is great, but not when I am so used to such elaborate ingenuity. Now in all fairness, this change of pace has to be an intentional choice. I am sure it carries meaning in the piece, but what Crystal Pite's is knowingly or not toying with is my engagement and interest level with the piece; frankly, it’s just frustrating from an audience’s perspective. 

The piece did gain back my trust by the end, but it was a rather long road till the excellent, religiously toned dance duet between the puppet creator and one of the puppet masters arrived. The first act really is something that must be seen, but the real downfall of Dark Matters is the time that it takes to earn back the good will of the audience coming into Act Two.