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Flash Review 2, 3-10: Scary Things!
Cas Public Enraptures a Young Public

By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2004 Gus Solomons jr

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NEW YORK -- To its roster of "family friendly" attractions the New Victory Theater recently added Cas Public (February 27-March 7), a troupe from Montreal. Director/choreographer Helene Blackburn's first show for young audiences, "If You Go Down to the Woods Today," deals with fears, real and imagined, that plague children. Nicolo Paganini's "24 Caprices" and a sound collage by Adrien Beaudoin accompany the hour-long piece.

On stage, stripped to its bare walls, the five performers introduce themselves by their real names and their phobias: Christophe (Garcia) fears deep lakes; Roxane (Duchesne-Roy) dreads not being understood; Yves (St. Pierre) hates loud noises; Hanako (Hoshimi-Caines) is afraid of monsters; and Sylvain (Poirier) doesn't like talking in public. Candace Broecker-Penn, sitting at the side of the stage, signs the dialog for the hearing-impaired. The dancers also sign what they're saying, expanding the gestures into lively dance movement.

The dance passages -- sprinkled with gratuitous bits of dialog -- show Blackburn to be a clever movement crafter. A unison duet for Christophe and Hanako, Sylvain and Roxane glides blithely around the stage, and later a running, leaping quartet -- minus Christophe -- cuts crisp diagonal paths across the space.

Two dancers focus low spotlights on Yves's legs and feet in his fast footwork solo: Irish step meets South African boot dance. Hanako's solo -- which, at first, she refuses to do, because she fears it will be too good -- is framed in a single spotlight. Her fingers walk along her body; she spars with her fists and incorporates more sign-language moves. At the end, Christophe shadows her in silhouette. Roxane in an angel's dress (clothes are by Carole Courtois) soars aloft in the nimble hands of Christophe and Sylvain. And Sylvain has a cute kinetic dialog with a spotlight that first hounds, then avoids him.

Fears touched upon also include loneliness, thunder, parents' separation, being different, spiders, and on and on. A fog machine, paper snow, eerie lighting by Jean-Francois Gelinas, and animated spiders projected on the rear wall provide some scary moments. But the script throughout lumps together real fears like fire or divorce, and imaginary ones like monsters and the dark, without distinction. Often the dancers' chatter distracts from the dancing and doesn't pertain to fear at all. But the youngsters near me in the audience appeared rapt and, with their folks, laughed at the dancers' charming characterizations and silly shenanigans in almost all the right places.

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