nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
October 20, 2006
Collage is one of my favorite styles of art. To me it's like a good banana split—so many flavors and textures mixing together to form something greater than its parts. Matthew Maguire's new theatre piece Abandon has all the fixings to make a delicious piece of performed art.
The very moment the performance begins you will immediately know that you are in for a night of beautiful interpretive dance, stunning video, and soothing original music; but as for a story to follow, it will be of your own making. Not because there isn't a story, but simply because when it comes to works of movement like this production the story is not told but rather it is presented in the abstract. So while we are given a few clues as to who the characters are and what they are going through, the storyline itself must be filled in by you. Here's what I took away: There are two sisters and at some point in their past their father left their mother. This seems to have had an impact on their sexual identities. Much of the show seems to focus on the struggle between the sexes. At times the men are on top while at others the women are in the saddle. And in the end... well, I'll let you interpret the ending. There are a couple of exchanges of dialogue but they are few and far between and because of this the dialogue is actually somewhat jarring after so much dance, video and music.
The piece was created through structured movement improvisations with the performers. They seem to have been given many of the images that filmmaker Zbigniew Bzymek uses in his extraordinary video collage work because many of the poses and tableaus created by the ensemble match the images in the video, while at other times their movement matches the emotion of the video rather than the pictures. Bzymek wisely uses very few moving images so as not to distract from the movement on stage. His work is truly amazing. Almost equally impressive is Andrew Ingkavet's original score. His compositions are evocative, moving, and heavenly. He uses an interesting mix of classical and electronic sounds that work perfectly for this production. I'm sure the ensemble is delighted to have such a beautiful score to move to.
The performers—Alexis McGuinness, Genevieve Odabe, Victoire Charles, Michael Ryan, Jeff Barry, and Richard Prioleau—all turn in dazzling performances. They exhibit exceptional control over their bodies and work together as if they grew up in the same household. Writer-director Matthew Maguire leads them with precision and elegance. Particularly striking is his mixture of individual movement and group movement with multiple focal points. He creates a gorgeous collage of bodies in motion and never lets the eye wander to points not chosen by him. I do, however, think Maguire could easily eliminate the dialogue and find other ways to give his audience clues.
The elements of this production come together to make something truly remarkable. Fans of dance and collage should eat this production up like a banana split, for its delicious execution and its rich, sweet sense of beauty.