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Flash Review 2, 2-13: Smart Dance, Dumb PR
Two Angles on Garrett/Workum/Yavin's "Smart Set"

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2002 Maura Nguyen Donohue

NEW YORK -- Okay, I have to start with a rant. This past weekend I dragged my flu-ridden self out of bed, down from the upper upper west side and out to Brooklyn to cover "Smart Set" at the request of one of its creative artists. And while the work, created by Leigh Garrett, Katie Workum, and Ayla Yavin in collaboration with the performers, clearly lived up to its title their PR savvy fell a bit short. Though I'd been personally invited to cover the concert at Galapagos, no one thought to actually save me a seat. So I put my own smarts to use as I filled in the blanks for all the material I couldn't see. Despite a highly disgruntled beginning I was glad I fought back the urge to leave. In the end, I was infected by the ensemble's rambunctious energy.

Just to clarify, the practice of reserving press seats isn't just a courtesy. It's practical. Any venue not savvy enough to make sure that its artists are seen under the best possible circumstances is doing an enormous disservice to the artists. Artists, especially when self-producing, are equally responsible for trying to manage their own exposure and communicating with their front of house staff. These comments come from someone who spends a fair share on both sides of the stage.

Thankfully, Galapagos is a hip, funky venue and its patrons are a loyal and appreciative bunch. Though not set up for easy viewing, it's cozy and informally warm. The performance space allows drinks from the front lounge which always helps warm up a crowd. But the true buzz Saturday came from the intoxicating performers. The work is loosely based on "The Great Gatsby," with characters, moments, mood or text providing springboards for a variety of explorations.

Garrett's monologue-styled solo in which she maneuvers through an entire cocktail party conversation of Yes, Yeah, Mmhmm and No was an inspired expansion of such a setting. Simple shifts of her expression led us through a myriad of possible meanings in a one-sided dialogue. She swings from painfully polite to flirtatious to insulted to hysterical with studied ease. Will Rawls was a dynamic Willie Voltare, moving with force and vigor. He's a fascinating performer, projecting innate potency tipped with deliberate poise. Special guests David Neumann and Stacy Dawson, my own favorite modern dance Bonnie & Clyde, moved through the evening as an awestruck waiter and enigmatic patron. Workum closed the show, following a riotous bout of playful pandemonium for the entire cast, with a smart and simple song. Brooke Davila, Nathan Phillips and Yavin rounded out the charming group.

Smart Set will run at the Flea Theater in Tribeca on Sunday and Monday nights at 8 p.m., March 17 - April 1.


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