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Flash Review 1, 4-9: Somewhat Elevated
Flying Low with Kreiter & Crew

By Jennifer Copaken
Copyright 2001 Jennifer Copaken

SAN FRANCISCO -- Watching the miracle that was Jo Kreiter's "Maybe Grief is a Good Bird Flying Low" at SomArts Theater Friday compels me to divulge a dirty little secret about the current focus of my office day job. I have spent the better part of two weeks mediating between warring office camps over an issue rife with emotion, battle scars and high stakes.

Cubicle height. That's right. Cubicle height.

One Monday morning, folks came into work to discover 12 inches lopped off the tops of their cubicles. The loss of plastic and burlap and the increased physical exposure to co-workers was just too much for many. An act intended to increase communication instead felt like a strip search. Why is that? What is so terrifying about revealing our multi-dimensional selves to the people around us?

So it was particularly exciting for me to watch Jo Kreiter and her company of intensely present performers dare to tear down their own "cubicles" and expose what is raw, human, and even gleeful.

The performance began as soon as we entered the theater. The cavernous, high-ceilinged SomArts space had been transformed into a skeletal playground made of two trapezes, a circular metal merry-go-round apparatus suspended from the ceiling and multiple ledges sporadically dotting the walls. A blood red carpet covered the entire floor. The set offered audience members a choice of vantage points. I chose to sit in the lower area, closest to the merry-go-round. Audience members sitting in the higher section on the opposite side of the room became part of the theatrical space.

When the lights dim and shadows cast by the various apparatuses intensify, the first dancer appears. Alone, she glides her hand along the merry-go-round and circles the room, inviting us to become part of the ritual to come.

As the piece unfolds to the unique, haunting but somehow playful soundscape of Carla Kihlstedt and Shahzad Ismaily, we're enticed into private worlds of motion and emotion. The floor disappears from reality as solos and duets seem to literally crawl out from the walls. Performed on ledges, each segment speaks a personal movement language of a fully present woman. Dancers hang, they reach, they climb, they fall and they climb up again.

Connections between performers slowly evolve and emerge. In one moment, a hand is offered. In others, hands are asked for, begged for, taken. Jack Carpenter's inventive yet disciplined lighting design contributes to the pace and mystery. As one "cubicle" closes, another opens. Solos melt into duets, and wall ledges give way to boundless trapeze flying and merry-go-rounding.

I sat, spellbound, watching these performers dare us to defy the limits of inner and outer worlds. Kreiter's artful direction pushes the physical feats far beyond spectacle. The objects and the humans become one. By the end, my eyes did not see metal sticks and human bodies. I saw life in motion, breezing, flying, spinning, defying.

Performers Christine Chen, Krista DeNio, Patricia P. Jiron, Jo Kreiter, Rachael Lincoln, Rachel Shaw and Dominique Zeltzman clearly dug deeply to create this stunning material. Their dynamic, honest and exquisitely crafted performance was truly a gift. I will be posting performance notices on all of my co-workers' walls. "Maybe Grief is a Good bird Flying Low" continues at SomArts Fridays through Sundays through April 22. For more info, please click here.

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