Anna and The Annadriods: The Robots Dream Tour
nytheatre.com review by Tomi Tsunoda
August 13, 2006
Anna and The Annadroids, the latest presentation from Anatomical Scenarios, is an evening of theatrical dance pieces that explore themes of consumerism and commercialism. The dancers, mostly women, embody repeating images of dolls that are part Barbie, part robot. Anna and her Annadroids go on a journey of being programmed and reprogrammed to shop, despite their various attempts to rebel toward freedom.
The choreography, by Anna Sullivan, pulls from traditional dance shapes, like ballet, but also includes idiosyncratic variations of movement that are extremely dynamic and exciting. The stiff, jerky choreography underlines the idea of robotic bodies, and successfully creates the impression of bodies controlling or being controlled by unseen forces.
The sections of movement are divided by projected video and, on the other end of the spectrum, simple, live song. The projections (designed by James Pryor) communicate the themes of consumerism and conformity most directly—too directly, actually. The words "consume" and "conform" are flashed at us amongst corporate logos and an image of a blindfolded man. The robot women from the dances are tied to chairs and brainwashed to shop. These segments, while direct, are so aggressive and blatant that they become increasingly off-putting. In an age when commercialism and its faults are part of our daily fabric, pieces such as "Programmed To Consume, Programmed To Conform" and "Shop=Buy=Swipe" seem too simple and naked of a criticism to hold any real significance for an audience.
The image of the blindfolded man repeats in a live musician (Happy Chichester), who, dressed in a hospital gown, opens the show, and sings and plays the piano while blindfolded. The blind man's songs, while compelling in and of themselves, seem to have little or nothing to do with the rest of the performance. Most anomalous is the naughty nurse (Erin Karla) who arrives mid-show to deliver a tune, with a great deal of discomfort and very little sense of purpose or musical dynamics.
The most exciting and gripping moments of the performance are Sullivan's dances. Without slapping us in the face with socio-political complaint, the choreography abstracts the ideas of conformity, consumerism, powerlessness, sexuality, tunnel vision, and plasticity beautifully. Even with intelligent uses of repetition, the vocabulary never feels tired or overused. Sullivan's work is more than worth the price of the ticket, and it's too bad she feels it necessary to pack it in between external material that ultimately detracts from the overall theatrical experience.