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2, 5-3: Flag-Wrapping
Carlson Doodles Yankee
By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2002 Chris Dohse
NEW YORK -- Ann Carlson tells us
toward the end of her "too beautiful a day" at Symphony Space Wednesday night
that she had intended to use the venue to premiere a new evening-length work.
Instead (drat the ornery nature of creative juices), she ends up showing a "re-investigation
of issues and themes" from two previous dances, "Blanket" and "Flag," both from
1990. What a serendipity for us. These truncated versions of pieces created on
the eve of the Persian Gulf War couldn't be timelier. Carlson's provocative, wise,
guilelessly political, multidisciplinary theatrical creations make oblique references
to American history at a time when many of us are questioning our stake in "e
pluribus unum." Clothed in a voluminous dress made from the U.S. flag, Carlson
sits quietly at one point center stage, as the lights chillingly fade to black.
The centerpiece of the evening is
what apparently used to be "Blanket." Remarkably transformed by posture (and the
subtle aid of costume and wig) into something like Ruth Buzzi's purse-wielding
frump from "Laugh-in," Carlson simply, slowly traverses the stage from left to
right, like words on a page. She begins by bawling like an infant, an uncomfortably
raw, incongruous image. She mumbles and mutters, recites the Lord's Prayer and
riffs from random newscasts. She seems haunted by voices, a lifetime of memories.
She asks the audience what time it is. The whistled theme from "The Andy Griffith
Show" and Vietnam-era headlines place her in the USA of my own childhood. With
the lucidity of a panic state, she finally places the bouquet she's grasped throughout
on a grave and collapses.
A short opening solo, wherein Carlson
dances simply to a recording of a child reading a list of "rules" about dance-making
(Doris Humphrey's "All dances are too long" brings a laugh), is a treat. Carlson's
movement is simultaneously gooey and precise, with something of the inspired beneficence
of Harpo Marx. A Greek chorus made up of Bennington students punctuates the solo
material. Dressed in white skirts like a gaggle of bridesmaids or homespun angels,
they join in a recurring martial chant and fall repeatedly to the floor, huddling
together in the same direction like fish in a grocer's case. Carlson's final auctioneering
preacher act puts a healing on innumerable anxieties.
"Too beautiful a day" repeats at
Space's Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater at 9 p.m. Wednesday May 8. Please visit
the Symphony Space web site for more information.
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