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Flash Review 1, 5-23: Brother's Blues
Listing Towards the Gist of Middle Age with John Kelly and David Del Tredici

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2001 Chris Dohse

There isn't a whole lot of dancing in "Brother," the collaborative "kinetic and dramatic song cycle" by composer David Del Tredici and movement artist John Kelly seen Saturday night at P.S. 122. Kelly punctuates his singing with selected gesture -- lyrics by himself, Allen Ginsberg, Lewis Carroll and others -- while Del Tredici accompanies on piano. Kelly's taut body imbues his gesture with restrained power and elegance as he sings a hagiography of the urban Queer male experience at the end of the 20th Century. There's lust in the journey, and loss, and longing; drugs and humor and style and, naturally, a little Joni Mitchell.

The sorrowful highlight of the evening is Paul Monette's incantatory poem "Here." Kelly unrolls a length of astroturf and reclines beside it to croon into the imagined earth of a lover's grave. A projected image of microscopic t-cells hovers behind him. With simple, theatrical images, Kelly suggests abjection, desecration, and a furious knowledge. He pursues activity with such purpose during the songs' interstices.

A bird-like sequence of asanas precedes Ginsberg's poem "Personals Ad," a funny, sweet proclamation of being "alone with the Alone" and searching for someone to "lay his head on your heart in peace." Imagined and remembered and longed for romantic-sexual-spiritual connections unite the songs' individual vignettes, as Kelly waltzes with the nostalgia and hope of each partner. An homage to Matthew Shepard, although performed with undeniable intensity and a boot scoot to Dolly Parton, veers from the autobiographical tone of the rest of the material and, therefore, seems gratuitous.

In an extemporary monologue, Kelly tells that his first evening -length work, "Go West, Junger Mann," was done at P.S. 122 in 1984. Several of the art stars of the 1980s East Village have appeared or will be appearing there this Spring, among them Karen Finley and Ann Magnuson. It's been a privilege to witness their artistic maturity. "Brother" speaks for a generation of gay men who used to take drugs and who now take medications, or as Kelly puts it at one point, the "gist of this middle age." A brotherhood of survivors, on a "middle aged adolescent journey."

"Brother" continues at P.S. 122 through Sunday, with shows at 8:30 p.m. Thursday's show is at 10 p.m. For ticket info, please call 212-477-5829.

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