Weekend One Mainstage Showcase is music-heavy and video-heavy--and so good Jun 9, 2012

by Leah Vendl

Hand2Mouth's "Something's Got Ahold of My Heart" features at first a plaid clad ensemble telling and the sweet-tragic narrative of a blessed-by-a-curse love triangle. Voices transpose for other actors and the image of, "where we can just sit and hold each others darkness," really got me--and had my fellow dress-rehearsal attendee checking her mascara for smears. The self-sufficient ensemble moves around their own equipment in plain sight and is even their own band--the piece transforms into something of a rock opera. But a real live drummer would have really gotten my heart pumping.

It was so gratifying to see video projection used the way Mike Pham did--as a typographile's daydream. Projection of only black and white text keeps the solo Pham mostly in in strobe-lit darkness. It's a sort of shy darkness that does something fascinating--abstracts his body. The word collage seemed like Shakespearean and Biblical-inspired phrases (spelled out words at a time in letters almost as tall as a person), but strung together in a sequence that invokes more mystère than it reveals.

I could have watched Sara Edwards and the People's Grand Opera sing Walt Whitman's words all night. As "The Public Road" lights dawned, I had this strange and thrilling feeling that I knew everyone on stage. But of course, I didn't. Only one or two of the singers, actually. But the familiarity I sensed had to do I think with the candor the or comfort the singers had with the words, or how I wanted to feel connected to this worn-down, worn-soft and America that the actors embodied. And hats off to Dan Hawkins (director of photography) if it's he who made the beautiful nostalgic, unobtrusive scenes that spanned out behind the People.

Kate Wallich & Crew's "One Plus" opens into an fist-pumping, hip-gyrating, thigh-burning, all-out rock-out--in slow-motion, inside what feels like a vacuum of time. When they stopped moving, I felt dizzy, as if the fluid in my inner ear had taken on their centripetal motion and didn't want it to stop. Both musician (Lena Simon) and live feed cameraman (Jacob Rosen) are on stage and completely part of the breath of the ensemble. Rosen uses the power of live-feed video for such good. When a dancer goes out of frame in the projection, we still get to see him in real life; we get to witness two realities at once. Rather than layering video and dancer, the moment is fractured, and from two angles, both realities amplify the other. Wallich's quality of movement is so engaging that at several times, I feel like, okay, it could stop here and I can die happy--and then the piece gives me one more round.