Sept. 8, 2011
by MERILYN JACKSON
Theatrically, Headlong Dance Theater’s Red Rovers has a beginning, middle and end. So why was I always waiting for it to begin, until the end? By then I realized the little dances by Christine Zani and actor David Disbrow that took place around the middle, were going to be “that’s all there was.”
It was another clever setup/sendup by the three wizards of wisenheimery, David Brick, Andrew Simonet and the ever-charming Amy Smith. In the lobby beforehand, audience members were given fake name tags (I chose Donna Galuska) and were greeted by Smith as if we were arriving for a conference. Inside the cool set, designed by Chris Doyle, we were divided by into four groups and taken away (Amway-style) to confer so that no group knew what the others were up to.
Donna did Disbrow…
Disbrow’s swell and sweaty nerd/scientist was trying to get the Mars Red Rover working again. But as he explained how things got so screwed up, clearly his mind and Freudian slips were on trying to get his marriage to his partner and colleague Zani working again. Zani played her role with severity and danced with disdain for Disbrow. They texted mathematical solutions back and forth, with Zani mostly seen remotely on a skype-like screen. The clumsiness between them, the show’s conceit, and the two little remote controlled robots made by students at Central High, were adorable. But just as with Headlong’s 2009 More, there was a lot of stuff that just didn’t add up.
The dances, which could have summed it all up, were too little, too middling.
Instead of leaving Red Rovers excitedly chattering over what we had seen, we were puzzling over what we hadn’t. Has Headlong forsaken dance? John Cage, whose birthday was just yesterday, could get away with doing a piece for four minutes and 33 seconds in silence. But there has to be someone sitting motionless in front of the instrument to create the tension in the audience. Will she or won’t she play?
Creatively and collectively, the Headlongers need to rebalance their somatic and cerebral processes.
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