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Flash Review 2, 2-5: Pass Me that
Gui-tar 'Fore I Smash Another Beer Can on My Forehead
Dawson Goes West, Young Dancer/Singer/Actor
By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2002 Maura Nguyen Donohue
NEW YORK -- Stacy Dawson calls her
first evening-length work, "Best Western," a "hallucination that pays tribute
to the legacies forged in the underbelly of country and western American folk
music." Like any good hallucination, the work, which played at PS 122 this past
weekend, trips through moments of complete obscurity into flashes of incredible
brilliance. It moves beyond the obvious Dawson staple of comedic lip-synching
into a darker internal journey for denizens of a lonely and heart-broken realm.
It's her delirious homage to country music.
Dawson, a Bessie award-bearing actor/dancer,
can sing herself a serious Loretta Lynn. And, though I am far from being any kind
of fan of country western music, I found myself completely enchanted with her
each time she took to the microphone. She is a master of subtly shifting facial
expressions and handles both live singing and lip-synching with equal ease. She
has repeatedly shown herself to be a riveting performer and it's this intensity
that saves me from the deadly pacing of sitting through sappy song after silly
Structurally, "Best Western" often
stumbles into disarray. Frank DenDanto III's lighting helps evoke many a dismal
and dusty saloon, but the full stage picture is too often unfocused. The work
was created in collaboration with the performers, but would have benefited from
a director's eye. The shifts between vignettes seem accidental and some members
of the cast do little more than try to enhance the mood. But, next to powerhouse
performers like David Neumann, Steven Rishard and Katie Workum there would seem
little else to do.
In fact, the sharpest moments are
those focused down to a couple performers at a time. Neumann and Rishard perform
a quick glimpse coked-up duet of rapidly shifting gestures. It is a moment to
relish -- brief and tightly executed. Workum and Rishard maneuver through dynamic
and stunning duets with enormous agility and razor-sharp timing. There is a moment
where the two swing from giggling lovers to embattled abuser and victim that slices
through the entire evening like a gunshot. I particularly appreciated a sequence,
led by Rishard, where the music drops into an early American lament with the entire
cast singing a capella. The song is arranged to bring the bright hot despair right
up so close to us that we can't escape it -- no matter how many beer cans we smash
on our foreheads.
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