Posted on Mon, Jan. 31, 2005

The dancing was inept, the theater annoying

It’s hard to tell what ArcheDream is up to. But to call this stuff “dance theater” insults the real thing.

By Merilyn Jackson
For The Inquirer

The Philadelphia-based company ArcheDream is performing The Poet’s Dream this week at the Harold Prince Theatre of the Annenberg Center. Supported by Penn Presents, it is part of an optimistic new initiative called the Philadelphia Presenting Project that offers local talent a chance to perform in the professional space.

While the group does have some professional aspects – lighting, elaborate costumes, a decent program – to call ArcheDream a dance-theater company (as it labels itself) is a disservice to the fine dance-theater companies that grace Philadelphia’s boards. It is simply hard to figure out what ArcheDream wants to be.

To one who had just seen Momix’s endlessly inventive Lunar Sea and its often hilarious use of black light, watching ArcheDream’s black-lit, character-driven story – characters ingenuously called Peace, Death, The Poet, The Guide and The Sphynxx – was like ordering chateaubriand and getting a nuked veggie-burger.

With its vaguely Aztec-inspired costumes and high school-level pantomime, The Poet’s Dream looks like children’s theater. But it would bore any smart kid into a mega-tantrum. With its emphasis on pseudo-Jungian character development, ArcheDream is clearly reaching for adult audiences. But by the time the preachy prologue was finished, I was ready to kick the seat in front of me.

The amorphous, New Age-sounding music, mostly by Alex Mitnick, equally grated. Impeded as they were by their overstated costumes, none but Gabrielle Burke Casella (as The Polluted Earth) showed any proclivity for dancing. Mummers dance better.

There was movement, but no choreography that I discerned. Everyone just seemed to wing it in a free expression of what each thought the character should be. For the most part, that meant crouching with arms and fingers splayed. On top of that, “multimedia projections” titled the cartoonish characters’ photographs as they appeared onstage.

This kind of antiwar, antipollution twaddle could cause World War III. Please, before anyone funds this group again, bring back Woofy Bubbles and WooWorld. That went down a bit easier.