Spaghetti Co. Saga Continues at the NEPO House

Written by Christin Call 
Dancers Chantael Duke and Amy Johnson in Spaghetti Co.
Photo by Scott Carver
Spaghetti Co., an episodic project choreographed, directed, and danced by the Italian-born-and-raised Alice Gosti, is based around dinner as a cultural eating ritual.  On Saturday, March 17, 2012 the three- woman troupe (the two additional dancers are Anh Nguyen and Devin McDermott) were joined by three additional women for an installation and performance event at NEPO House, a home that opens its doors for artists to show new work.  This version—a step toward the final chapter to be called “Eat or Die”–had less playful humor and visual puns than as shown at Northwest New Works this past June.  This performance’s quality seemed to be summed up early on when, holding up a cup of wine and tossing the liquid violently in her own face, Aliceappeared to have gotten some in her eyes.  She danced the rest of the piece with eyes bloodshot and stinging. 

Part of this work’s allure is the spectacle and gusto of the wine-dousing, spaghetti-flinging, table-pushing, and lamp-swinging.  Witnessing how much the performers relish creating their mess, it’s sometimes hard not to be distracted by the “food fight” aspect when deeper themes are at hand.  And there undoubtedly is. 

In the realism of an actual house, the dining room was set up with a table, chairs, tablecloth, silverware, plates, and cups.  Italian-language TV played in the background, which, combined with the stirring aroma of a big bowl of spaghetti and a bottle of wine, gave just enough specificity of context.  The three women sitting there, however, didn’t seem to be a family at all.  Donned in impeccably white, strapless dresses, identical red lipstick and nailpolish, these women moved with a shifting array of sexiness, cunning, aggression, and melancholy that seemed to cascade from one to the other, blurring the sense that these were individuals capable of existing outside of each other’s presence.  Like ghost images of each other, the women performed movement that was propelled forward by a kind of mirroring loop of action and reaction futile-y repeated, such as a sequence in which the women pulled and tugged at each other in the same sequence over and over until it became chaotically out of order.  There was no longer a leg there to kick out from under, no arm to pull needfully into the chin, and in reverse, a scanning arm became a slap to the back of the head. 
  
Choreographer and dancer Alice Gosti in Spaghetti Co.
Photo by Scott Carver
During the pre-show installation, missing home was expressed in an overtly cheesy, sentimental way—as three slightly younger women smeared with bits of tomato guts took turns staring blankly, taking wistful looks out the window, and slowly hinging to the floor while a ticker with Alicia Keys lyrics to “No Way” scrolled.  In the main work the sense of having lost something familiar was less tangible but permeated the complex dynamics of knowing when it was “right” to hurl spaghetti, carefully lower one of the women down onto the table, threaten one another with glares, and lie underneath the table like a child.

One especially important and unavoidable component of Gosti’s work is the smell of the food and drink and the way it shifts throughout the piece.  At first deliciously appetizing, some of the attendees fixed themselves a plate and glass before the show began.  But very quickly after the first splatter of spaghetti against the wall the smell built steadily, overpowering the room, then became turgid, even changing the quality of air to something more humid and sticky.   At the end when the final performer, Nguyen, took a fistful of pasta off the floor (where it was previously on someone’s shoe), slapped it on her plate, and proceeded to scarf down the entire pile, we were all left feeling a little nauseated and wondering how we could have ever found that aroma desirable.  All the same, maybe we wish we had the choice to refuse its taste.