KPBS AIRDATE: November 07, 2003
One production asks the question; the other has the answer. Asian American Repertory Theatre’s latest offering is “But Can He Dance?” and Malashock’s 15th anniversary dance presentation says “You betcha!” As disparate as the two productions might seem, there’s a shared element between them: the passion and pain of finding true love. That’s the heart of Dorinne Kondo’s comedy “But Can he Dance?” and the deliciously offbeat focus of the film, “The Soul of Saturday Night,” recently created by choreographer John Malashock and UCSD-TV director John Menier, to the low-down, world-weary songs of gravel-voiced Tom Waits. Shot on the seamier side of San Diego, from Santa Fe Station to the Pickwick Hotel, the dance-film follows two couples as they fall in and out of bed, love, ardor and angst. It’s suggestive, sexy and award-worthy.
The film is just one part of the dichotomous dance evening called “Sacred and Profane.” Malashock is at his best when he’s whimsical, as in his 1998 creation, “Love and Murder,” set to the twisted ballads of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, where sweet songs bespeak violent acts. The company is in fabulous form, with featured performers Keturah Stickann-Skadberg and Michael Mizerany pairing off beautifully in multiple segments. The Dance Suite from 2000’s exquisite, Patté Award-winning “Blessings and Curses,” goes to the heart and soul of the choreographer, with its rich story steeped in Jewish culture and history. The gut-wrenching biblical tale of Abraham and Isaac remains particularly potent.
Potency has everything to do with a young Asian woman’s quest for True Love in “But Can He Dance?” The characters are archetypes, named She and Man 1, 2, 3 and 4. They are emblematic of the search for connection in a world of clubs and cafes, where Macho Men of all colors abound, lesbians are there for the taking and false expectation and self-deception are the name of the game. Can you keep your sanity and your sense of self in a relationship? The guys serve as Greek chorus as She stumbles from one unhealthy interaction to another. There’s no happy ending here, and no new ground broken. But Kondo has a way with dialogue, comedy, sex and the dating scene… and director Anne Tran finds plenty of opportunity for dance — of the vertical and the horizontal variety. The cast is captivating; San Diego newcomer Tiffany Loui is delightful, and should get more work around town soon. As her paramours, Susan Hammons makes a nifty dominatrix, G. Madison IV is a smart black guy with ‘tude and a few other failings; Juan Manzo is adorable as an irresistible but irresponsible Latin lover and Jeff Lorezco is sweet and sympathetic as the nerdy Asian nice-guy.
Maybe dance isn’t everything… but it sure makes for moving theater.
I’m Pat Launer, for KPBS news.
>©2003 Patté Productions Inc.