BWW Review: LOOSE GRAVEL is Raw, Edgy and Occasionally Brilliant

LOOSE GRAVEL, a new work by Frank Wo/Men Collective, is a collaborative performance piece by a group of Austin and New York emerging artists that is part dance and part short theatrical scenes that span the gamut from comedic to absurdist and back to dramatic. The work is a gender fluid piece of thirty two individual vignettes that is multi-lingual in places. This highly physical piece takes risks that don't always work, but when they do, there are flashes of brilliance on this tiny stage.

The six performers in LOOSE GRAVEL are Dannon O'Brien, Hunter Sturgis, Mario Alberto Ramirez, Robert Di Donato, Alexa Capareda and Kelsey Oliver.

Between them, they address such issues as body acceptance, racial identity, feminism, gender identity, androgyny and self acceptance.

Performing on a mostly bare stage, this edgy work is fast and furious and often times right in the audiences face. The dance skill of all six of these performers is impressive, but Dannon O'Brien, Kelsey Oliver and Alexa Capareda stand out as having some serious dancing chops.

Among the highlights of the evening: A dance piece called "Crazy Cat Lady", an inspired use of a mini trampoline to simulate totally misunderstood conversation on a dance floor called "TrampsOnTrampsOnTramps", a movement piece called "Wacky Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man" which is just what it sounds like, "I Pledge Allegiance" which is riotously funny, "Hollywood Swinging" which features O'Brien, Capareda and Oliver and their hilarious hip shaking skills set to a Kool and the Gang tune, and a finale I don't want to spoil. I also really enjoyed Robert Di Donato's touching piece "Scars from Society".

Kudos for making scene changes and prop clean up performances in and of themselves and to Chris Conard for his set and lighting design as well as to Common Walker for his impressive soundscape design.

To be sure, the evening is uneven and a little on the long side for a piece with no intermission; however this no-holds-barred performance does contain moments of brilliance... and some impressive talent at the beginning of careers I'd be very interested to revisit a few years on down the road.

LOOSE GRAVEL by Dannon O'Brien, Hunter Sturgis, Mario Alberto Ramirez, Erica Saucedo, Robert Di Donato, Alexa Capareda and Kelsey Oliver

Choreography by Erica Saucedo.

Running time: Approximately Two Hours with no intermission.

Advisory: Venue is unheated, dress appropriately.

LOOSE GRAVEL, by Frank Wo/Men Collective at Topology (1805 E. 6th Street., Austin, Tx.)

Jan. 5-7, 2017 at 7:30 p.m..

Admission is sliding scale $5-20. Tickets: frank-wo-men-collective.ticketleap.com/loose-gravel---a-physical-theatre-performance


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