Friday, May 29, 2009

Le Serpent Rouge


Written/directed/choreographed by Austin McCormick. Company XIV. (CLOSED)

For the most part, the worst criticism Austin McCormick's new dance/theater extravaganza gets is that it's too much of a good thing. Most critics are turned on, some apparently quite literally, by this lush, sensuous, and quite heterodox retelling of the Adam-and-Eve creation myth, with a dollop of seven deadly sins thrown in for good measure. Nearly all rave about Zane Philstrom's set and Olivera Gajic's costumes (and lack thereof), with only a few finding the results a tad repetitive. Sounding the least impressed, and dragging the grade down to a B+, is the Voice's Brian Parks, who finds it all a bit of a drag (pun intended). A
(Danny Bowes) Although the story of Adam and Eve is as old as mankind, McCormick's choreography is absolutely not. What it is: imaginative, visually striking, fresh, exciting, erotic, compelling, articulate, and brilliantly theatrical. Of course it helps to have good dancers, and in Laura Careless, John Beasant III, Yeva Glover, and Davon Rainey, McCormick has some very good ones. Beasant and Careless create true character arcs for Adam and Eve, respectively, entirely through movement...Tired of superlatives yet? Too bad. Le Serpent Rouge looks stunning—courtesy of lighting designer Gina Scherr's lush reds, yellows, and oranges; the dancers are frequently back- or top-lit and become beautiful shadows. They perfectly compliment Zane Philstrom's impressive set (replete with chandelier) and Olivera Gajic's costumes, which do actually get worn a bit, the first few minutes notwithstanding.

That Sounds Cool A
(Aaron Riccio) It's a sort of epic burlesque, except that McCormick and Company XIV are in the habit of stripping away the glamor--ironically, using glamor itself to get back to the humanity of these ancient tales. This apple bites back, and the taste of Le Serpent Rouge! lingers on.

Blog Critics A
(John Sobel) Austin McCormick's Company XIV is back with another extravagant, sexually charged dance-theater piece of the kind only they can produce...The choreography is continually expressive and beautifully realized by the amazing dancers; the movement is descriptive, never abstract, occasionally a little repetitious, but the spell holds for the production's full 70 minutes...Given the dark material, there's surprisingly little menace in the tale. One gets the sense that Mr. McCormick and his troupe take such pleasure in their work that real evil, even in circus guise, can find no purchase on their stage.

The New York Times A-
(Andy Webster) This theater-dance hybrid, a lush rumination on temptation, infuses its subject with a heady blend of baroque elegance and contemporary snap...Mr. McCormick’s dances throughout are sensuous marvels, pungent but never overwrought. The performers, though, vary. John Beasant III’s Adam is a cipher, easily led by his sex drive. The women are more interesting: as Eve, Laura Careless is frustrated but earthy, resilient and striving, and Yeva Glover, as Lillith, is lithe and blithely seductive...Does this work sympathize with suffering womanhood or mock it? A little of both, I’m afraid. Nevertheless, Mr. McCormick and his crew show great humor and a pronounced appreciation for body heat. The combination is deliriously rewarding.

Brooklyn Paper A-
(Mike McLaughlin) Maybe I wouldn’t have been so bored in Sunday school if they had taught me the story of Adam and Eve like Company XIV does in “Le Serpent Rouge.” I certainly got a big rise from this stripped-down, satirical depiction of the Fall of Man, which featured a first couple writhing nearly naked...If the play loses momentum at all, it’s because almost all of the dialogue is delivered by a narrator. That’s not to say there isn’t action; a gyrating drag queen invades the audience, the sets are ethereal, and the soundtrack is filled with fantastic oldies like James Brown and Peggy Lee. The time-honored man-woman dynamic and divisions endure in this bawdy Creation myth...But this isn’t some pure hedonistic romp in which reckless self-indulgence has no consequences. The characters in Austin McCormick’s play experience pain and agony after breaking the allegedly divine rules. But there’s joy in expulsion, too — especially for Adam, who gets to experience Earth’s first menage a trois.

Offoffonline A-
(Amy Freeman) Their version of the temptation and the fall is as sensuous, spectacular, and rococo as it can get, with a shiny pressed tin backdrop, a whip wielding, thigh-high boot-clad Ring Mistress narrating events, a large chandelier that doubles as the tree of knowledge, and a fog machine...What follows as part of the temptation is a walk-through of the Seven Deadly Sins, beginning with vanity. A large gilt-framed mirror is wheeled onstage...Le Serpent Rouge almost threatens to be too long. There is a brief second act, separated from the first by an entre-act performance of Eartha Kitt's " A Woman Wouldn’t Be a Woman" by a drag queen. The second act serves as a quick summation and almost feels tacked on to the piece, a quick little bow to tie everything up.

Gothamist B+
(John Del Signore) You'll be pleasantly surprised by the rococo splendor that awaits you inside the Brooklyn home of Company XIV, where their second production, Le Serpent Rouge, unfolds under a lavishly designed, pressed tin proscenium and shimmering curtain. Zane Philstrom's set is a work of stunning beauty, matched only by the impeccably toned bodies of the core performers, who display impressive physical endurance and plenty of flesh while executing Austin McCormick vigorous, baroque choreography...In the absence of any dramatic tension, the piece becomes increasingly attenuated around the one hour mark; while the writhing bodies and lavish design are always easy on the eyes, a certain repetitiveness takes hold as the ensemble proceeds to reenact purgatory...But taken as a whole, the moody Le Serpent Rouge is filled with enough striking and surprising tableaux to whet my appetite for future apples from Company XIV.

Backstage B
(Andy Propst) Writer-director-choreographer Austin McCormick likes his opulence. With Le Serpent Rouge, he delivers a wildly flamboyant take on the Biblical story of Adam and Eve...Though often sensual and sometimes brutal, McCormick's choreography—performed with intensity by the company—can become visually repetitive despite the broad array of accompanying music. Perhaps McCormick intends for similarities in the dances to be leitmotifs that underscore the perpetuity of the vices, but unfortunately the effect can be a bit wearying. Ultimately, Serpent feels a bit like a medieval mystery play that's been crossed with a juicy soap opera.

Village Voice C
(Brian Parks) The most impressive thing about Company XIV's Le Serpent Rouge is not the show but the troupe's fabulous theater on Bond Street in Brooklyn...Trying to work a sexy vibe, the piece—directed by Austin McCormick—features a fair amount of nudity, but occasionally feels like one of those "exotic" topless casino shows. Nonetheless, Yeva Glover (Lillith) and John Beasant III (Adam) are both talented dancers, and a late section of the piece that has each methodically pacing around the circular set is oddly compelling...Not at all compelling is the show's drag queen, lip-synching singers such as Peggy Lee. Hey folks, it's 2009—drag queens are tired. Especially mediocre ones who want to give audience members—unlucky me!—a lap dance. If you insist, though, please deploy an actor without such nasty breath. A 13; That Sounds Cool A 13; Blog Critics A 13; The New York Times A- 12; Brooklyn Paper A- 12; Offoffonline A- 12; Gothamist B+ 11; Backstage B
10; VV C 7; 103/9=11.44 (B+)

No comments: