In an epic collaborative trio composed of cellist, dancer, and actor, the performers of This Is Not A Table For Three stunned a modest audience this weekend at The Pocket Theater with their interpretation of the masterful literary work, A Season in Hell. Composed by nineteenth-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell may not have provided the most uplifting prose, but Daniel Christensen’s monologue was beautifully dynamic in all of its density—an honest recitation of the narrator’s ramblings and self-pitying proclamations. Meanwhile, cellist Joshua Dent and dancer Christin Call were far from outperformed. They enacted a silent comic dialogue marked by humble subtlety which, despite its lack of verbal contribution, was as indispensable to the work as Christensen himself. A true piece of small-scale innovation directed by Lauren Hlubny, This Is Not A Table For Three was a refreshing re-conception of a dark classic that distinguished itself as an exemplification of artistic collaboration done right.
Though Rimbaud’s prose tends toward the abstruse, This Is Not A Table For Three came across as a narrative insight into the psyche of one man—an account that was played out by the talented Call who, arguably, served as a physical manifestation of Christensen’s youthful past or inner desires. Call worked through her body with ease, demonstrating a clear personal aesthetic that stemmed from a distinct use of spinal articulation, undulation, and musicality (further enhanced by the dynamism of Dent’s harmonies and dissonances). Though the contemporary and seemingly gaga-inspired movement vocabulary of Call’s off-and-on pointe work was aesthetically consistent, her playful relationships with both the cellist and actor were particularly delightful and helped to develop a congruency between all three of the performers.
Thematically, the use of a chain was also of particular importance throughout the work. At the beginning and end of the piece, Call was attached to a short metal chain by the ribbons of one of her pointe shoes and—as a supposed manifestation of Christensen’s psyche—she thus served to demonstrate the ongoing enslavement of Christensen to his own mind. The actor’s subsequent removal of the chain, however, initiated a more curious and childlike role in Call, who teased Christensen with her power and vulnerability. She played off of Dent, too, whose facial expressions were equally if not more entertaining than the dancer’s flippant gestures. Though the use of the chain was representative and aided the plot in a literal sort of way, ultimately, its manipulation needed greater ease. In addition to the physical limitations that Call suffered in having to hold it up, the chain’s loud clanking appeared unnecessarily cumbersome. Perhaps a rope tied around her upper body could have served the same purpose without the inconvenience or distraction.
Regardless of any minor compositional flaws, This Is Not A Table For Three was a spirited and well-appreciated elaboration on Rimbaud’s philosophical prose. With an air of dark humor, the musical prowess of Joshua Dent, and a character-driven through-line, the work was as unexpectedly pleasurable as it was artistically directed. If nothing else, This Is Not A Table For Three deserved a much larger audience, and the publicity to match.
More information about the Pocket Theater available at thepocket.org.