Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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What if I were Romeo in black jeans?

October 19, 2008

Dancers in Myth
Photo: Gina Ferazzi/LAT 2008
The UCLA Live International Theater Festival finally got under way last week with two different set of visitors. The first was a rather drab staging of Synge’s Playboy of the Western World from Ireland’s Druid Theater Company that I may write more about later if I get around to it. But far more intriguing and stimulating was the concurrent second offering Myth, a dance piece from choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Belgian collective Toneelhuis. The two performances of this two-hour work on Friday and Saturday represented the U.S. premiere of this unapologetically international polyglot of a work. And while I enjoyed it overall, I couldn’t help but wonder if Pina Bausch got the royalty check she clearly deserved.

However, if you’re going to wear your influences on your sleeve, you might as well copy from the best. Myth, in the best of the Baush style, is a big tent with dance, acting, dialog, and music here provided by Micrologus a sort of ethnic early-music group. The work is decidedly non-narrative but employs numerous themes as it careens from angst to whimsy. Multiple languages blurt out in all directions with the occasional supertitle thrown in, but clearly this is poetry and the characters are no more talking to one another than they are to the audience. A cast of several characters including a young intellectual woman, a tall African-American drag queen, and two young Down’s Syndrome lovers, among others, wander about what appears to be the Syrian branch of the L.A. public library. The dancers slither in and become shadows for each of the other actors, but soon take on lives of their own. From here, the episodic proceedings imply a variety of different myth narratives that are never spelled out with one hundred percent clarity but evoke everything from Mahogany to Der Freischütz. There’s a birth and young lovers (no relation) and guess who shows up from behind the big swinging doors at the end looking all buff in his tight blue jeans.

And while Jesus may corral virtually everyone else between the covers of this never ending story, there's never really a dull moment. It was witty and had a clear visual sense and style that held one’s attention throughout. While it may not have always made complete sense, Myth always avoided taking itself too seriously. The movement was evocative and often very pretty. Throw in more than a couple hottie dancers and you’ve got yourself a worthwhile evening even if it isn’t all spelled out in big block letters.


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