Broadwayworld Dance Review: Chase Brock Experience presents The Girl with the Alkaline Eyes, January 13, 2019
When I entered the Beckett Theatre for the performance of the Chase Brock Experience's production of The Girl with the Alkaline Eyes, I kept hearing repeated recordings alerting me that this is a Chase Brock Experience production. I think that by the 10th time I heard it I wanted to scream out and ask if this was a PR ploy or if they were going to pass baskets around where we could deposit some money, Or better yet, if someone would give a rendition of Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat. Don't ask where that came from, maybe it was the scenery, a projection of a futuristic computer lab on vinyl strips. As I kept looking, it began to look more and more like a Bob Fosse musical; it screamed deep and dark.
Dark it was--blame the murky lighting--but was it deep? Were we about to enter a realm that dance has never undertaken? Was it going to be performed in real life time or in virtual reality wraparound sound, because that's what it's supposed to be: a futuristic life story when computers and robots take over the world?
As far as I'm concerned, and as I was at the final performance and had read previous reviews, for all its intent to push the subject of artificial intelligence, it was a very simple gay love story that turns sour. The LGBTQ community should all see this, because somehow this gets blurred in what has been reported in the media. You can't tell me that I'm the only one who noticed.
Maybe I was.
Hunky Oliver, a computer whiz-at least that's what I think that was what he was supposed to be--who wears goggles (reminiscent of the ones worn in Balanchine's Orpheus, when the eponymous character is entering Hades), is very much in love with his employer, Troy--who doesn't respond to his enchanted looks and body language whenever he sees him. Troy is more interested in a new doll creation, Co, the girl with the alkaline eyes, who is given life when Oliver ups the voltage and sends her careening into life. And we know she has those eyes, because when someone points a flashlight into them--voila!!! Through some scenes we find Troy having sex with Co, and then later, in a dream? with Oliver. But neither ends happily. Oliver is back where he began.
And so are we. Weren't we supposed to connect? Or is our future to respond to a robot's cool efficiency, forgetting any human attachment?
As much as the piece tries to focus on Co, it is only when Oliver is onstage that the piece really comes together, at least for me. Spencer Ramires plays the part beautifully, revealing not only Oliver's sex appeal, but his vulnerability and aching heart for Troy. When he is not in the spotlight, the piece becomes lame. Computers do have a future in our lives--don't they now?--yet it is only Oliver who is a truly real person. He doesn't want a robot in his bed. He wants Troy, a real person. But Troy can't respond. And that's the real tragedy of the story.
It's also strange that in today's world, when artificial intelligence can supposedly decipher a person's sexuality by analyzing a photograph of the face, this line of thought was not followed. In this presentation, a gay man's life is off-center, where it should be up front for all of us to see. Was the choreographer afraid to explore this, or was he just playing it safe and keeping all the LGBTQ stuff on the precipice?
I thought we had moved past that.
And then there's the dance--it's minimal and can't always convey a story, which is paramount here to make logic of anything transpiring. A bad case of dramaturgy. Wasn't someone looking in? Take for instance the scratches and bandages on the faces of Oliver and Troy. Why? Did I miss something? Or was it that damned lighting at play once more?
Eric Dietz wrote the terrific score for keyboard, violin and cello. I found it one of the best original compositions I have heard for dance in a long time. It can convey computer dilemmas, man's search for love, and a dance at some sleazy nightclub. Really first rate. I wonder what he will deliver in the future.
On the other hand, he was also responsible for the scenario. Had he condensed it by 15-30 minutes, had some more effort gone into the thought process of what the piece could and should have been, I think it would have become a Chase Brock Experience repertory staple. It's going to be interesting to see what happens to it.
The problems that creators of new choreography have to face! And I am being totally honest!
Photo: Michael Kushner