Chien de Moi
nytheatre.com review by Debbie Hoodiman Beaudin
August 22, 2011
At the beginning of Chien de Moi, a movement-based theater piece by Pittsburgh’s In the Basement Theater Company, written and directed by Sophia Schrank and assistant directed by Asia Gagnon, I worked pretty hard to try to figure out what the piece was about. I knew I had to write about it after all, so I wanted to make sure I could piece it together into a neat, coherent nugget.
As the show begins, there is a voiceover talking about a dream world, and The Girl (Ava Deluca Verley) lies on the floor, centerstage. She is wearing a white dress, and her hair is pinned back on the sides, conveying an innocent, youthful character. The other characters on stage are described in the program as The Lovers (Adrian Enscoe, Jesse Carrey-Beaver, Marquis Wood); The Dogs (Michael Cusimano, Rodney Earl Jackson Jr., Brian Furey Morabito); The Trees (Jessie Ryan Shelton, Ginna LeVine); The Flowers (Katya Stepanov, Candace Maxwell); and Lady Bolt (Grace Rao). There is also The Ringleader/Man with the Clock (John McKetta), who comes in with his alarm clock and sometimes makes the whole group scatter or watches them with a knowing look like he’s seen everything before.
The female dancers, dressed in Lydia Fine and Travis Chinick’s wild shreds of colored cloth or sheer skirts, with wild hair and makeup, contrast with the innocent look of The Girl. Some of the male dancers wear no shirts and some wear dog masks (creepy, cool, sleek-looking masks credited to Adrian Enscoe). As I became acclimated to the show, I thought that maybe the piece is about the difference between girlhood and womanhood, that maybe this girl’s dream is about discovering her sensuality.
The show runs just over 30 minutes, and during that time, the dancers perform, mostly in pairs, and the girl interacts with them, sometimes watching them with curiosity, sometimes with amusement, sometimes with surprise. She also dances—solo and with the other characters. The choreography (Marquis Wood, Katya Stepanov, Jesse Carrey-Beaver, and Sophia Schrank) is energetic and varied. There are balletic moves, ballroom dance, lifts, turns and movement in different tempos. I love the way the dancers’ bodies often suggest dogs in the way they moved, and I love the repetition and the joy of seeing different couples dance in synch with one another. Bart Cortright’s exciting sound design includes music from a range of tempos and moods with lyrics in different languages.
The show ends as it begins—with text but this time with The Girl speaking—and she references the dream world she just entered and seems to visit often: “So here I stay…in this place that exists somewhere between what can be contained within a bed, and what is overflowing everywhere else.”
Sometime during the course of the show, I set aside my original goal of containing what I had seen in some simple, logical interpretation. It became more about feeling than thinking. In the end, this interesting piece of theater succeeded in bringing me out of my head and into the moment. It was enjoyable, invigorating, and lovely to watch and listen as these artists danced.