From Metaphysics to Meatballs: NW New Works Festival Offers Diverse Line Up

Written by Mariko Nagashima
With a mix of philosophical performance art, riveting contemporary dance, and even a down and dirty food fight, NW New Works Festival delivers a host of innovative pieces in the first of its two-weekend run at On the Boards.

The Studio Showcase, which opened Friday, June 11, begins with Multiverse, in which Kate Sanderson Holly ponders deep metaphysical questions with intent yet whimsical curiosity using the lens of a picnic lunch. With a breathy sing-song voice, Sanderson Holly reflects on the possibility of parallel universes. A bolt of red gingham fabric, stretching down the center and across the back of the stage, represents the space time continuum and provides a metaphor for humanity’s limited perspective on the nature of the universe. Though the piece delves into weighty existential issues, it retains an irresistible carefree charm throughout, embodied when Sanderson Holly dons a cheery blue dollhouse as a hat and whirls freely in her own microcosm. She throws a final wrench in the audience’s perspective, however, when she wraps the cloth around her as a skirt and walks offstage dragging the picnic remains, and the entire universe, behind her.
Next on the program, Coriolis Dance Collective furthered its considerable range with Christin Call’s try to hover (or Private Practice 7). Centering on the idea of hospitalization, Call paints a bleak picture of patient care and the mental state of the infirmed. Clad in smocks evoking hospital gowns, the six dancers initially move as if in a heavily drugged fog, but a sudden shift from Peter Broderick’s somber piano chords to ambient noise emboldens their movement which turns frantic and visceral. Trembling fingers, haunting stares, and contorted body postures convey sobering medical mishaps. The company’s usual clarity of movement and striking purity of line become especially prominent in a series of intricate lifts. By the end, the dancers undress each other, and the movement turns even more introspective, echoing the vulnerability inherent in being a patient.
Kyle Loven’s When You Point at the Moon takes the audience on a compelling but surreal journey. It begins with a child’s voice relaying an eerily prescient warning: “Don’t point at the moon or it will cut your ears off.” Loven alternates between an impish persona with a white painted face, and a puppeteer, making a mask of a man’s face and a spindly fingered hand, come tentatively to life. Projected pictures illustrate a seemingly nonsensical equation, “butterflies + rattlesnake + water droplets + gaping mouth + broken rope = scissors.” This montage of images correlates with Kevin Heard’s soundscape, illuminating the puppet’s journey and its unfortunate ending. Loven eventually cuts off the puppet’s ears, but after returning to his devious persona seems unable to control his own movement, as if manipulated by a power larger than himself. Where his character once relished his omnipotence over the puppet, Loven now shrinks away, nervously covering his own ears.
The extensive setup of a self contained room with clear plastic walls precedes an original, albeit messy production of Alice Gosti│Spaghetti Co.’s Are You Still Hungry? A trio of women portrays an unconventional family enjoying a spaghetti dinner that quickly disintegrates into a spectacle of far-flung pasta and wine-stained clothing. Their perfunctory movements and blank, detached expressions show that their antics have become mundane for them. Gosti and crew use their construction to reflect on the abandonment of propriety in a family setting, as well as the unquestioning nature of family acceptance. Though a definite crowd-pleaser due to sheer shock value, the piece never truly evolves past the seed of its idea.
This particular show continues June 11 and 12 at 5 PM each evening in the Studio Theater of On the Boards. Additional performances in the NW New Works Festival run this weekend and next. For more info visit: http://www.ontheboards.org/