Studio Showcase - The Portland Invasion Jun 16, 2007

by Tania Kupczak

Two very different groups made the trip up from the Rose city for the second weekend of the festival. Liminal Performance Group presented a shortened version of The Theory of Love, a multi-media lecture opera which premiered in Portland last month. Two performers standing at lecterns speak and sometimes sing a text which draws on classic and romantic poetry. Two other mysterious performers illustrate mathematical equations of love on a giant notepad, while adding vocalizations. The Liminal Theorists seem to be asking, "Is there a formula for Love?" Video and slides add a nice dimension to the stage picture, depicting a man and woman involved in various activities such as drinking tea, conducting scientific experiments, and fainting. Text, words, and pictures of birds appear seamlessly on several video screens, perhaps in an attempt to synchronize our thoughts and emotions into a cohesive experience. I wish I had seen the piece in its entirety, as it seemed to end suddenly without drawing any conclusions. Hand2Mouth Theatre presented Repeat After Me, an absurdist deconstruction of American culture and popular songs. At first, a deejay/percussionist asks us to "repeat after him", building the energy of a pep rally, which soon turns into kind of a karaoke contest. Wait, no; now it's turned into a pie eating contest... and those actors are getting pie all over their faces! They better take their clothes off. One of them does. Another is wrapped in a plastic bag and duct-taped to a chair. Not all of the transitions were strong, but music holds the show together, which ranges from a cappella folksongs to the J5's "I Want You Back". Seattle choreographer Paige Barnes presented Stenophobia (the fear of narrow spaces). Along with dancing collaborator Dustin Haug, Paige created a movement piece that starts out full of action and gradually takes things away. Quite literally; clothes come off, and both dancers end up naked. But they are clothed in projections of light from animator Stefan Gruber, whose computer drawings align perfectly with the dancer's bodies against the back wall of the theater. While the wide stage of the studio theater did not seem to fit with "fear" of narrow space in the show's title, the final imagery of computer drawn lines and shapes superimposed on human bodies reminded me of the movie "Tron". Portland, Seattle... Helsinki. Main Event is the title of the piece by Helsinki Syndrome, led by Rachel Hynes and Mike Pham. This show was similar to Hand2Mouth, in terms of the manic energy and abrupt changes between storytelling, song and dance and running around waving flags. Wait, maybe they were using semaphore? No, I think it was actually ribbon dancing. The guy next to me loved the ribbon dancing. Musically, there were some attempts at playing toy instruments, and some nice a cappella harmony. A giant parachute, feathers, fake blood... the best part about the show was the fact that in spite of the mess that was made, it was all cleaned up by the end. With one performer left on a bare stage in a pool of light holding a broom, I was reminded of the end of the Carol Burnett show. My only question: if this was the Main Event, where was the boxing? -Robertson Witmer