Friday, September 14, 2012

Live Arts Festival: What We Saw and Did in Philadelphia

We had a great weekend in Philadelphia, as we always do. The work was uniformly strong and we were able to rearrange our schedule for the hellish Saturday so that it was pretty easy (thanks to my having accidentally bought tickets for both the matinee and evening performances of WAMB that day and Sarah Muehlbauer for generously offering us a refund for the evening show that was going to cause all our problems). A quick bullet list of the shows we saw and our impressions:
  • Nicole Canuso Dance: a lovely, nicely-crafted duet in the park at the American Philosophical Society—the perfect beginning to our weekend!
  • Charlotte Ford, Bang: by far our favorite show of the festival—it's very funny, smart and beautifully performed by Ford and her collaborators, Lee Etzold and Sarah Sanford. 
  • SnakeEatTail, WAMB: Visually, the aerial work is great, the space is fantastic and the performers are engaging. This is Muehlbauer's first production and it shows a bit—the recorded text is very poetic and there's not much variety in the way it is delivered so that it blends in with the music, which is also rather sonorous. I'd be interested to see another project by the artist, though, and encourage her to use less pre-recorded material, if she can: everything that involves a live performer here works pretty well.
  • New Paradise Laboratories, 27: Another visually successful production presented by exceptionally talented performers. I only wish I could have enjoyed the show more: there's so much fodder in the idea of the 27 Club and how the path to stardom for so many young artists is so incredibly self-destructive. But that's not the focus of the work here. Too bad. 
  • Bruce Walsh, Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969: It's funny, it's well-acted and directed, it's short and  they give you snacks and drinks! This is a very close second in terms of our favorite shows—it's definitely our favorite living room production.
  • Applied Mechanics, Some Other Mettle: To be fair, it was the end of a very long day... The performances are all strong—both physically and artistically—and the director's use of the environment and incorporating of the art installation into the work is visceral and compelling. But I never really connected to the primal text and subterranean context for the piece. Another company that I will certainly go to see again, though.
  • Pig Iron Theater Company, Zero Cost House: Another strong production by director Dan Rotherberg with fantastic performances by Dito van Reigersberg and James Sugg (I could watch these guys do just about anything), and excellent work by Alex Torra, Mary McCool and Shavon Norris. And I also enjoyed Tohsiki Okada's clever script—even though I disagreed with some of the points he makes in it. It was the production that Catherine and I probably spent the most time discussing afterward.

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