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Sunday Morning Michael Dale: Austin McCormick's Company XIV, Still Creating The Sexiest Date Nights In Town

Also, thoughts on Funny Girl and "for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf"

Still the sexiest date night in town...

While one of the goals of this weekly column is to promote the high quality/relatively inexpensive theatre that can always be found in New York, today I'd like to devote a bit of time for those who might be up for a bit of a splurge.

And by splurge, I mean that for about as much as you would plunk down for a pair of full-price orchestra seats for a hit Broadway musical, you can snuggle up in a champagne couch for two, while being entranced by the glittery sensuality and thrilled by the aesthetically sublime athleticism on display in Company XIV's current offering, Seven Sins.

Named for the private court entertainments presented for royalty during the reign of France's Louis XIV, Company XIV is the creation of visionary choreographer/director Austin Mccormick, who I've been insisting for years deserves one of those MacArthur Foundation Genius Grants.

Sunday Morning Michael Dale: Austin McCormick's Company XIV, Still Creating The Sexiest Date Nights In Town
Pretty Lamé
(Photo: Mark Shelby Perry)

I first caught Company XIV back in 2009, when they displayed their wild antics in a small theatre on E. 4th Street. After their first permanent home was flooded by Hurricane Sandy, the troupe was nomadic for several years until acquiring a new home in Bushwick, where McCormick has his hand in every aspect of the experience.

It all begins even before you reach the venue, as you walk down a somewhat grimy, graffiti-covered street to the entrance of Théâtre XIV, where you'll suddenly find yourself in a dimly-lit, frankincense-scented lounge where bartenders serve from a specialty cocktail menu, curated by McCormick for each production. Company member, scantily dressed in fetish wear, will seat you and, if you're splurging on a cozy couch for two, pour your chilled champagne. (Less expensive ticket options are also available.)

Schooled in the choreography of the French Baroque period, McCormick developed a signature style that combines classic ballet with an assortment of more contemporary styles, set to recorded musical scores that can range from Offenbach to Armstrong to Cardi B. His cast members include not only top shelf dancers and singers, but burlesque artists, variety acts and aerialist's whose specialties are incorporated into his playfully erotic versions of well-known tales such as Cinderella, The Nutcracker and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. And regular attendees at Company XIV will note that shows are cast with diverse body types and gender presentations.

Hosted with pizzaz by vocalist Pretty Lamé, Seven Sins is a parade of vices that tempted Adam and Eve in those Biblical times. You're certain to find a favorite or two among them.

Nobody's asking me to direct any Broadway revivals, but...

...while enjoying Kurt Csolak and John Manzari's terrific tap duo during Funny Girl's second act "Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat" number -- a patriotic salute to World War I doughboys -- it struck me that at least a scene or two might have taken place during the 1918 Flu Pandemic, and it would be interesting to see some characters choosing to wear masks during offstage scenes.

I began attending Broadway shows back in 1976, mostly on school trips...

...and during the first two years of my Times Square playgoing, I grew very familiar with Paul Davis' portrait of author Ntozake Shange on the Booth Theatre marquee, where the original production of her choreopoem "for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf" played for over 700 performances.

The show had an attention-grabbing commercial, too, but I never got around to seeing it. I was more interested in catching Equus and Sly Fox and that new musical Annie.

That's a shame, because not only did I miss out on what was undoubtedly a thrilling and powerful theatre piece, but teenage me might also have learned a few things about the communal experiences of girls and women.

Sunday Morning Michael Dale: Austin McCormick's Company XIV, Still Creating The Sexiest Date Nights In Town
D. Woods, Kenita R. Miller, Alexandria Wailes,
Tendayi Kuumba, Okwui Okpokwasili,
Amara Granderson and Stacey Sargeant
(Photo: Marc J. Franklin)

Although I certainly knew at that age that rape, abandonment domestic abuse and other acts of violence against women existed, it wasn't until social media became a part of my everyday life that I became really aware of how frequently they occurred, just by reading the posts of my women friends and acquaintances. At that age, I couldn't imagine that getting catcalled and even touched by strange men when they walk the streets of New York could be an everyday occurrence for women.

But maybe if I had seen "for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf" when I was 16 or 17, and had listened to their stories of abuses by men, I might have understood better why, later in life, some women would, as an act of survival, assume the possibility that I might be a threat, simply for being male. I might have understood how actions I would consider harmless could be perceived as discomforting, or even threatening, by a woman, and that she wouldn't tell me for fear I might get violently angry. And if I understood that, I wouldn't feel hurt or confused by her precautions.

For me, one of the most powerful aspects of live theatre is the opportunity to sit in the dark and be silent while someone with different experiences than mine shares with me their truth.

Curtain Line...

"Playwrighting isn't a calling so much as it is a hazing process." - Paula Vogel



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