Dances In Funny
nytheatre.com review by Robert Weinstein
August 21, 2009
Dances in Funny, a charming piece now playing at The Robert Moss Theatre, opens with one woman walking onto an empty stage wearing an apron and carrying a stainless steel flour sifter. She stops and looks at the audience for a moment with an open look on her face, holding the sifter in front of her as though she is presenting a very important object. She turns the crank and the sound of the rotor scraping against the mesh screen creates a constant and consistent beat.
Another woman enters and stands next to her. She also wears an apron and looks at the audience but carries a stainless steel manual hand mixer. Listening to the rhythm of the sifter, she turns the mixer's crank, and the sound of its clashing blades creates a counter rhythm, which blends nicely with the first. Three more apron-clad women enter—separately—each carrying different kitchen utensils. They create a culinary symphony, each sound playing off the other, and soon ascend into a kind of jazz with each utensil having its say. The sound ends. The women look at the audience and clear the stage.
Dances in Funny is a movement and text piece based on the theme of food. The piece contains five parts, performed by individual women with group interludes introducing the theme of each.
The first, "Lemon Meringue Go" performed by Susan Thomasson, is a seductive treatise on the assembly of lemon meringue pie. Accompanied by a tango piece by the Gotan Project, she weaves the details of the recipe. The intensity of the piece mimics the rotations, gyrations, and spins of putting it together, depending on the importance of the ingredient or the complexity of the instruction.
In the play's most stationary piece, "Wrap," Judith Nelson is wrapped in tinfoil, with an apple placed in her mouth, as though she were a pig roasting in an oven or over a fire, and speaks with a cheerfulness belying her situation. In a voice reminiscent of Marge Gunderson in Fargo, she expresses how grateful she is to be antibody free. She describes her trip from the factory. She takes a call from a friend who is also being baked. She seems both curious and unaware regarding her predicament, failing to connect the rising heat with her imminent demise and the humor of the piece comes from her unfailing optimism and naivete in the face of her situation. She seems genuinely excited to find out what happens next.
In my favorite piece, "First Recipe," Ara Fitzgerald starts with the question, "What is the first recipe?" It begins like a vaudeville routine, with showy movements full of hooey hokum and flailing elbows but eventually smoothes into a thoughtful and somewhat sensual exploration of the role of food in the creation of man. Fitzgerald matches the movements of her body with the rhythms of her text and skillfully evokes the contours of temptation in our relationship to food.
The other pieces are equally inventive and are performed with finesse. Karen Eubanks's infectious joy in"Galette Gavotte" crescendos into ritualistic song with wide, sweeping, thrusting movements, while Claire Porter serves up two distinct characters—a waitress and a customer —in a piece that begins as a satire on the relationship between those who consume food and those who provide it, and evolves into a smart and funny investigation that blurs the social and political lines inherent in the transaction.