KPBS AIRDATE: May 19, 2006
High concept vs. high camp. In a dance performance and a comic spoof, lofty intentions square off against base instincts. But of course, it isn’t a competition. You can catch both productions — and indulge your penchant for high art and low comedy.
“Fathom: Body as Universe” is an artistic triple-whammy, a world premiere that combines the vision of choreographer John Malashock with the inspiration of Japanese artist Junko Chodos and the ingenuity of Israeli composer Ariel Blumenthal, all attuned to the story of an influential 9th century Buddhist monk. It’s beautiful to behold. Chodos has created gorgeous, richly dimensional mylar panels, that descend dramatically for different scenes, providing evocative backdrop, underscored by Blumenthal’s stirring soundscape, alternately jarring and meditational, excellently performed by percussionist Steven Schick and the San Diego Master Chorale.
The inspiration was Kukai, a priest, scholar and philosopher who suggested that anything there is to be known can be found by looking within ourselves. The dance piece contemplates six universal themes, such as spirit, nature, intellect and emotion. The most potent segments are Sorcery and The Tantric World, one exploring the blissful intensity of ritual and ceremony, the other the wonder and joy of sexual energy. In these sections, Malashock’s moves soar; we are deeply touched and affected. Other components are less emotionally engaging, though they’re extremely well executed by a splendid ensemble, spearheaded by the athletic Michael Mizerany and the marvelous, frequently airborne Emiko Hihara. The effort, energy and talent that went into this production are palpable.
Speaking of palpable, you want to reach right out and touch the pulchritude in “Pulp!,” a delicious co-production of Moxie and Diversionary Theatres. Fueled by booze and hot babes, this delectable noir comedy is a sendup of all the trashy lesbian pulp fiction that ever was. Under the skilled co-direction of Delicia Turner Sonnenberg and Jason Southerland, the cartoonish characters and situations are made credible, funny and period-perfect. It’s all about love, and the love that dare not speak its name – though some speak it pretty directly – coupled with the lure of lesbian bars, the torch songs of drag kings, and the ineffable appeal of Barbara Stanwyck. This isn’t one of those dark, secret mid-century stories that ended in moralizing and misery. It’s Chicagoan Patricia Kane’s gleeful 2004 celebration of an alternative lifestyle — and it’s terrific fun, with an incredible cast of gorgeous gals: Jo Anne Glover, Jessica John, Jennifer Eve Thorn, Liv Kellgren and Terri Park. They may not sing as well as they act, but they are dynamic and compelling, and they look so darn good in their delightfully dated costumes, hairdos and makeup.
So, beatify the body — whether your intentions are prurient or pure.
©2006 Patté Productions Inc.