BWW Reviews: MOMIX's Alchemia Lacks Magic But Not Spectacle
Sometimes theater magic is used so greedily that it becomes entirely unmagical. The succession of unrelated illusions comprising MOMIX's Alchemia, created by artistic director Moses Pendleton, had such an effect, sacrificing sincerity and substance for the sake of shock and spectacle.
Pendleton paints his version of alchemic transformation in incredibly broad strokes. Images of leaves, coral reefs, and other generic nature photos (likely Pendleton's own) are projected throughout the piece, and the endless shifts in theme and setting lack specificity and serve as vehicles for tricks rather than meaning.
Some of the piece's imagery, thankfully, is unadorned and grounded in movement. The dancers enact the fitful spinning of whirling dervishes in several moments, hinting at the spiritual transformation that such dedication to simply moving is said to offer.
In a grander moment, the cast sits in a circle as if roasting marshmallows, making the lifelike fire (a deep red canvas) flicker with the long poles they each hold. The fire grows and flickers more violently, the dancers moving with the same quality with which it folds and unfolds in the air. Then, a rainbow gobo and a sequence of about fifty jetés promptly end the moment of resonation.
MOMIX's talented women are unfortunately limited by Alchemia and its lack of subtlety. While Pendleton occasionally makes interesting, stand-alone movement for his men (Changyong Sung triumphantly stands out among them), his women don't receive any substantive choreography. Instead they are oversexualized, trapped within ropes, poles, or mirrors, or used as vessels for indulgent physical feats.
An exemplary moment of this problem involves the cast in bright red costumes, lovely when they are left alone. The women, however, have large balls under their costumes that act as hips, breasts, butt cheeks, and pregnant bellies as they do seductive movements behind the men, who are executing side-tilt after side-tilt. It is clearly a moment that is intended to be hot. A photo of icicles is projected behind them, as if this is all that is needed to suggest the complexities of the opposing elements.
Photo by Todd Burnsed