from l-r: Nicole Parker, Josh Grisetti, and Vicki Lewis
Photo: John Ganun/Reprise
Being back in town this weekend, it was time to catch up on some shows before they disappeared entirely. And in most cases, I was glad I did. The Reprise Theater Company
wrapped up its 2010 season over the weekend with a revival of Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows’ How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
at the Freud Playhouse on the UCLA campus. Reprise has had a particularly strong season this year, and it appears the leadership of artistic director Jason Alexander is certainly reaping dividends in terms of the quality of the shows overall since he took over the job. Granted How to Succeed
is a little past its relevance in 2010. This afternoon pretty much met my skirt-chasing themed theatrical events quota for the year. But musically you couldn’t want for more and director Marcia Milgrom Dodge runs one tight ship. The cast was exemplary, including the always enjoyable Vicki Lewis as wells as excellent regulars Ruth Williamson and Michael Kosroff. I’d be remiss, though, not to mention the superb performance from Josh Grisetti as J. Pierrepont Finch. Visitors to the Freud Playhouse are often stopped in the theater’s lobby by the mini-gallery of memorabilia donated to the UCLA Musical Theater Program by one of its major benefactors, Ray Bolger. The relevance of these artifacts may have seemed greater than normal during the run of How to Succeed
because Grisetti’s talent and appearance recall Bolger so strongly at times it borders on the uncanny. One can only hope that he has a career as important ahead of him as that legend.
from Lionel Popkin's There is an Elephant in This Dance
I also caught one of the performances from Lionel Popkin and his collaborators at REDCAT
where they brought one of their recent works There is an Elephant in this Dance
to hometown audiences after appearances around the country. The title plays with the same kind of irony Magritte used in claiming that “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” despite all visual evidence to the contrary. Popkin’s piece in fact does not have an elephant despite its title, but is instead structured around an unrealistic multi-piece elephant costume. Dancers don parts of it throughout the hour-long work that is often accompanied by video depicting pre-recorded performance of the dancers in the costume as well. The physical movement of the dancer’s can be blunted by the costume either by obscuring their features, or by acting as comic foil by its presence in the video even when the live dancers are not enmeshed in it. Animal movement is everywhere in the piece, though, including a recurrent gesture where dancers attempt to place their fingers in each others mouths similarly to a horse’s bit. There was something fresh in all this, both in its irreverence and avoidance of a sharper focused physicality so common among contemporary choreographers. Popkin’s Elephant
is unconcerned with the blurry edges. The piece does drag a little in the middle, and sometimes the dance becomes totally secondary to the background video, but it does suggest the mind of someone with interesting ideas about dance and movement.
Labels: LA Theater Reviews, REDCAT 09/10, Reprise