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Flash Review 2, 2-28:
Sinister Slapstick with Nuts from Keely Garfield
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2002 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- Watching
Keely Garfield and her company Sinister Slapstick in "Free Drinks
For Ladies With Nuts" felt like watching creative, mostly well-behaved,
hyperactive eight-year-olds at play... serious play. Besides a set
of plastic model ponies, toys included big, grown-up costumes, lights,
and even live music. Not just any live music, but Rachelle Garniez
and the Fortunate Few, a bluegrass band playing a sweet set of eight
songs, and earlier, Phillip Johnston intoning on his soprano sax.
The performance of three premieres, seen Saturday, was presented
by The 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Project at The Duke on 42nd
Garfield doesn't as much
choreograph dance as script physical drama played out in shorthand.
She began a movement and stopped it short, as if interrupted, but
my mind fleshed it out anyway. She and her dancers exchanged looks,
sometimes implying complicity, at other times confusion, as if to
ask one another what they were in the midst of doing. They danced
with a carefree demeanor, displaying physical familiarity to the
point of indifference, like a basket of puppies crawling over one
another. And they showed a youthful innocence which, while initially
cloying, evolved as genuinely optimistic.
"My Sister Was a Refugee"
paired Garfield with Rachel Lynch-John, dancing to a set of four
songs. They behaved only as family could, mixing moments of tender
affection and familiarity with snarky fits of competitiveness and
plotting, where Pippi Longstocking braids became lethal weapons.
Garfield danced "Good Girl Daddy - Part I" with Lawrence Goldhuber,
the veteran performer who is three times Garfield's size. As he
crossed the stage, Goldhuber mimed hiding himself, and fired loaded
hand signals at Garfield as an airport gate traffic director might
give a taxiing pilot, or a trainer might give a boxer. They exuded
a camaraderie, evidence of many previous collaborations.
The live country/bluegrass
songs performed by Rachelle Garniez and the Fortunate Few (with
Garniez on accordion and lead vocals, Marc Daine on guitar and banjo,
Kenny Kosek on fiddle, and Mike Weatherly on bass) during "Free
Drinks For Ladies With Nuts" was almost an embarrassment of riches.
Though Garfield, Lynch-John, and Lisa Townsend wore wedding gowns,
they may as well have been children playing dress-up, kicking their
legs to be free of the crinolined skirts, looking under their skirts
for hidden things, running around barefoot, and playing air guitar.
The dancers toyed with gender/role-playing issues, brushing dirt
from their dresses, pinching their cheeks and snugging up their
bustlines as if they suddenly realized they had to be presentable.
Later, after disrobing
to cream slips and unfastening their hair, the women placed delicate
little toy horses about the stage and carefully posed beside them,
tossing their manes artfully. It underlined an affinity between
a tamed horse and a betrothed woman, both checking wilder impulses
in order to follow orderly societal expectations. The smallest movements
seemed magnified, helped by the intimate proximity of the seats
to the stage in The Duke (a real gem of a dance venue in an improbably
commercial location). "Free Drinks" was unquestionably entertaining,
but what lingers are the savory nuances of Garfield's implication-filled,
The effective lighting
was designed by Susanne Poulin.
(Editor's Note: To read
more about Keely Garfield's unusual challenges leading up to this
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