BWW Review: Powerful and Poignant ODE at West of Lenin
You may remember, Dear Readers, my lack of affinity for performance art. I usually just find it confusing and lacking much meaning, which ultimately makes me feel like I'm just not smart enough to get what they're trying to convey. So with that in mind you'll understand how well crafted Nike Imoru's "Ode" currently playing at West of Lenin must be as I not only got what she was trying to convey but was riveted.
Imoru combines dance, music, and spoken word to illuminate this journey that she has culled from moments in her life. And lest you think this is someone else's therapy on stage (something else I despise) rest assured that her life is one of tragedy and triumph that's thoroughly engaging. From tragedies as a child, to success in her chosen profession, to an unexpected health scare she handles each moment with a fearlessness and tenacity that let's you know she can survive whatever is thrown her way. And it's all told through stylized movement and dance along side Simone Bruyere Fraser who acts as a kind of surrogate for the "character" of Nike as well as people from her past.
If you're familiar with Imoru's work from her turns with Seattle Shakespeare Company and Upstart Crow to name just a few, then you already know what a superb storyteller she is. What you may not know is that she's also a successful casting director most notably for the Syfy Channel's hit show "Z Nation". So you know she's got the smarts to back up all that talent. It should be no wonder then that when she sets herself to write a piece like this that it should turn out incredible. And the story is only complimented by the outstanding direction from John Britton and music from Ryan Leyva that keep it all flowing beautifully.
Fraser is gracefully expressive throughout the piece and makes for an excellent conduit for Imoru's story. But don't think that Imoru is just sitting in an armchair narrating as Fraser does all the work. She's right there with her communicating the emotional struggle through movement when she's not wowing with her words.
About my favorite actors and actresses in town I always say, "I'd be happy watching them read from the phone book" and Imoru falls squarely into that camp so when that phonebook is replaced with such a gripping tale then it just becomes a treat to behold. And so, with my three letter rating system, I give Nike Imoru's "Ode" a fascinated YAY. If you're a fan of Imoru then you don't want to miss this one and if you're not yet a fan, this will remedy that.
"Ode" performs at West of Lenin through May 21st. For tickets or information visit them online at www.westoflenin.com.