Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
June 15, 2012
Gut-busting or gut-wrenching. Take your theatrical pick. In other words, Neil Simon hijinks, or a hip hop contemplation of domestic violence.
Let’s take the serious before the ridiculous. The title of Eveoke Dance Theatre’s latest work: “BREAK: nine ticks and a BOOM” was inspired by a grim statistic: Every nine seconds, an American woman is battered. The hopeful intention is to help Break the cycle.
This is the final production by Eveoke as resident company at the La Jolla Playhouse. It’s one of the strongest, most compelling works to come out of the social-activist arts group in years. And it was created by two novice choreographers, company members who are the most captivating performers on the stage.
Becky Hurt plays the formidable Shadow to three generations of women, caught in a spiral of abuse. Myriam Lucas, her co-creator, is riveting as a series of monstrous perpetrators. The ensemble, which includes student and pre-professional dancers, is variable in quality and body-types, hallmarks of Eveoke’s inclusionary mission.
The angular, often aggressive moves mirror the rangy music, from the electronica of Pantyraid and The Fingerbangerz , to the smooth sultriness of Dinah Washington and Etta James. Punctuating the music are prerecorded poems by spoken-word artist Miesha “Ocean” Rice, whose imagery is sharp-edged and searing.
Part of this intense, disturbing piece is exposing the ways that women contribute to the cycle of violence. In what seem to be real and heartfelt claims, each dancer reveals her inner demons, and at the end, in a powerful personal expression, each says how she vows to conquer her internal or interactional torment. “BREAK” makes potent and inspiring use of the personal, political and poetic. Some images – especially the inventive use of rope as symbol of the positive and negative ties that bind – will not be soon forgotten.
Neil Simon’s weaker one-liners, on the other hand, can often be forgotten. And 1976’s “California Suite” is not one of his funniest or most poignant plays. But he’s a favorite at Scripps Ranch Theatre, and the loyal audience is appreciative.
The four scenes take place at different times, with different couples, in the same room at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The third segment is the strongest, in the excellent and hilarious hands of Brian Salmon, much-missed from local stages, and Teri Brown, as an arch British couple. Alcohol, and anxiety over her nomination at the evening’s Academy Awards, unmask the roiling tensions in their marriage.
Marital discord is at the heart of the sometimes lacerating comedy, guest directed by Fran Gercke , who often has his malleable cast emphasize the antic physical comedy over the quippy bon mots, to varying effect.
It all comes down to whether you like to spend your post-performance time with a think – or a drink.
“Break: nine ticks and a BOOM!” runs through June 24 at the La Jolla Playhouse on the campus of UCSD.
“California Suites” also continues through June 24, at Scripps Ranch Theatre on the campus of Alliant University.
©2012 PAT LAUNER