Laughter, and Imaginative Entertainment at 12 Minutes Max

Written by Carla María Negrete Martínez

Dancer Emily Sferra and musician Doug Barber in Elana Jacobs’
Make Like a Table and Serve
Photo by Tim Summers
Curators Markeith Wiley and Leah Vendl brought together an evening of theater, dance, and dance-theater for On the Boards’ last 12 Minutes Max of the season. The season-long production continues to introduce audiences to new works by promising Northwest artists. This 12 Minutes Max was a remarkable showcase of creative, comical, and genuine innovators and performers.

Dysprosium Bond (Antonio Somera, Marisa Gold, and Robert Azevedo) is a guest ensemble in 12 Minutes Max from Vancouver, BC. Their piece, Active Divergence, allowed for the rhythmicity of breath to set the pace of the clever floor work and partnering that continuously connected these three artists. Like the magnetic, easily affected, and corrosive properties of the element dysprosium, the symbiotic relationship of the trio emphasized their dependence on each other. However, their constant merging in and out of one another revealed the many differences in breath and rhythm throughout their journey of fast runs, pulsing jumps, and paced—yet fearless—waiting with open arms for whatever shift came their way.

The silence of the first piece was flooded by the sound of a recorded scene in the play Death of a Salesman. The SPLINTER GROUP, presented The Salesman is Dead, a theatrical exploration on the memories of the Salesman. It is unclear whether the performance is a reenactment, alternate scene proposition, or furthering of the story. Unfortunately, the piece was too reliant on the sound design and context of the original play, making it inaccessible to some audiences.

The third piece of the evening was a collaborative work between music and dance. Pas Encore, choreographed by Devin McDermott and composed by Seth Garrison, depicted a droid controlled by esoteric animal sounds. McDermott’s restrained angular limbs and exciting tip-toeing exposed her technique as she interruptedly made her way toward Garrison, who played the keyboard live. Unexpectedly, Garrison left his post behind the instrument and surrounded his robotic-doll, only to join in with movement behind her before the blackout. It would have been interesting to see what happened after their union.

Next in the program was Sarah Butler’s excerpt of A Palace of Matchsticks. Butler’s intrinsic weaving of limbs and body parts was refreshing to watch. Dancers Matt Drews, Alexandra Maricish, Babette P. McGeady, and Kelton Roth precisely delineated, pierced, and carved through the negative space between their bodies during several duets. Contrasting the darker atmosphere of the duets, and at times organized chaos of a quartet, Ariana Bird picked out several feathers from her elaborate, white corset, encompassing her body in a blur of white dust. As a good excerpt should do, it left the audience craving for more. Thankfully, Butler’s complete piece will be presented sometime in the fall.

The tone of the evening became serious when Danny Long, in a red gown, torturously lounged to sound and text from The Bible and a Baptist preacher’s sermon on the “sinfulness” of homosexuality. The sincerity of The Blood displays the misunderstanding that many suffer through when God and Being entangle—and the consequential pain of rejection. As Long washes his face with blood and exits to Tyler Walls’ Fix Me Jesus, the audience is left to wonder whether he was commenting on washing his impurities with Jesus’ blood, or on how being himself was destroying his relationship with God, but not being true to himself was killing him. The Blood will be presented again at the Erickson Theater on May 4.

The mood quickly lightened after this with Quiet Monkey Fight’s Beckett On The Fly. Dan Finkel and Shawn Kemna asked the audience to tell them an action or a noun. An audience member said “washing a dog,” launching Finkel and Kemna into a witty improvised play. Pretending to be talking dogs, the performers recognized different smells: themselves, a ball. As can be expected of a 12-minute improv, the actors at times got lost in their own storyline, yet their humorous actions kept the performance entertaining.

Elana Jacobs|Cabin Fever presented a refined version of the piece Make Like a Table and Serve, which was presented in A Moving Conversation at the Fremont Abbey in February. Emily Sferra’s theatricality and commitment to staying with one of her most inner identities, while being a quirky hostess and exploring the many facial twitches of extreme emotion was fascinating to watch. Doug Barber’s original music composition and text intertwined with Sferra’s comical movement and revealed Jacobs’ metaphor of renewing oneself. Together they compared fixing a car to fixing the “engines” of the body and the self. Jacobs has a knack for combining exquisite movement with text and music, and still keeping her work genuine.

Gerald Alejandro Ford blew the evening away with laughter through El Último Coconut. For those in the audience who spoke Spanish, the play was even more entertaining as the talented Ford seamlessly combined both languages in the story of Coco, his Mexican family, and his acceptance into MIT and ArizonaStateUniversity. In his solo-performance Ford beautifully and accurately represented characters within the Chicano culture. His full-length show will be presented at the Annex Theater July 31 through August 22, 2012.

12 Minutes Max will return next fall to On the Boards, when more innovative and diverse performances can be seen.