BWW Reviews: ICELAND, STILL, SAANA/THE FOREIGNER Impress at REDCAT's New Original Works Festival

By: Jul. 27, 2014
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REDCAT opened its eleventh annual New Original Works Festival this weekend with a trio of intriguing pieces incorporating movement, dance, music, and a variety of theatrical elements that push the boundaries of thought and creativity. Together they make up the first of three programs that will be offered now through August 9. Each weekend will introduce a new selection of works.

Choreographer Wilfried Souly's SAANA/THE FOREIGNER explores the journey of an immigrant presented by one dancer (Souly) and two live musicians, Julio Montero and Tom Moose. Beginning in the lobby before moving into the theater, it is a dramatic expression of the challenging physical and psychological journey one makes when coming to this country. Souly winds and unwinds his body with shuddering intensity throughout the half hour piece, which is full of wild tribal outbursts, fragile lyrical moments, and harsh dissonances that melt into musical order as the journey progresses. A satiric video compilation integrated with the movement reveals the complexity of a couple's interrogation as authorities determine the validity of their marriage. Raw, and unflinchingly honest, it is a powerful work of intensely personal nature.

In Rosanna Gamson/World Wide's STILL, four men and two women create an intricately beautiful dance of the psyche as light shifts, shadows move, and bodies intertwine with exquisite sophistication. REDCAT's website describes Gamson's work as a "kinetic investigation of the neuroscience of evocative new work, rich with tender and violent movement, explosive athleticism, shape-shifting theatricality, and stunning moments of stillness. STILL is set in, and against, an eclectic sonic landscape which sources viol, cello, and violin music ranging from French 17th century court composer Marin Marais, to new world post-rock band instrumentals." Though a bit esoteric and cerebral, it is an accurate description. To see it in motion, however, is a very sensual and quite unforgettable experience.

Technically the dancers are a muscular marvel, whirling and connecting at a feverish pitch within a kind of androgynous visual collage. Staccato whisperings, the sounds of a train and an ethereal circus-like presence waft in and among the shadows while billowing fabrics drape and move to contain space. Even the female dancers' long hair become characters of their own, moving through space with a kind of liquid presence that is astonishing, especially in combination with Tony Shayne's masterful lighting design. STILL is a beautiful example of movement and light partnering in a breathtakingly emotional way, highlighting the lines of the body like a canvas upon which to create a fluid design. And then in a moment, the frenetic movement stops and all is still.

The third selection on this program is one that will be of most interest for musical theatre lovers. It is a presentation of the first part of Overtone Industries' ICELAND, written and composed by O-Lan Jones and Emmett Tinley, which is scheduled for a full production in 2016. (Jones also directs.) The experimental work crosses genres and incorporates elements of musical theatre, opera, and storytelling with orchestral accompaniment and the bridging of two worlds - ancient and contemporary - to tell a haunting love story. If this short half hour is any indication of what's to come, the final mounting of this piece will be an exciting event.

Cesili Williams (Vala) and David O (Mudar) bring to life the two characters who meet, experience a disaster, and emerge in a transcendent place. Williams has a rich, buttery voice that suits the music well and David O, normally seen in his capacity as composer and music director in LA, reveals a quiet intensity as Mundar that gives this pairing a very conscious and mindful appeal.

A twelve-member Hiddenfolk Ensemble of singers in Icelandic costumes, envisioned by Christina Wright and Christopher Tulysewski, moves around the lovers to create the world and provide suggestions of what the production design will include: airplane propeller props, a parachute with angel descending from the sky, and lengths of gray cloth to represent the path of a person seeking the right way in a life's journey. There is an otherworldly quality to it that forecasts a richness of textural depth in the vision. Jones takes the abstract and unites these elements to create a story built from the imagination that is absolutely mesmerizing and leaves you wanting more. At an early stage in development like this, that is exactly what you want. I highly recommend you see this portion of the project now so you can experience the full impact the final production will have.

Here is a complete schedule of upcoming festival events.

Program 1: July 24, 25 & 26
Saana/The Foreigner - Wilfried Souly
Still - Rosanna Gamson/World Wide
Iceland - Overtone Industries

Program 2: July 31, August 1 & 2
The Singing Head - Carole Kim
Object of Her Affection - Marsian De Lellis
Electrogynous - D. Sabela Grimes

Program 3: August 7, 8 & 9
Blacktop Highway - John Fleck
For Now - Ate9 DanceCompany

REDCAT is located at 631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 in the heart of downtown Los Angeles on the northeast corner of the intersection of W. 2nd and Hope Streets. Housed in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex, REDCAT has its own street entrance on 2nd Street. Tickets and information: (213) 237-2800 or Performances begin at 8:30 pm.

Photo credit: Steven Gunther
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