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Flash Review, 11-15: Maybe.... And maybe not
Maguy Marin: Still Alone Together After 25 Years

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider

PARIS -- I'll pick up on my DI colleague Aimee Ts'ao's theme in her recent column, by starting with the context in which I viewed the reprisal of "May B," not just the signature work of one choreographer, Maguy Marin, but, we're told in the program distributed last night at the Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt, the herald of a new generation of French choreography that followed its 1981 creation. The reaction set in about 2000, coincidentally when I parachuted in, only to find Marin's children had confused the miniscule prized by the master with the small, which is not always beautiful. That's context number one. Number 2 is that three years after I first saw Marin's company in New York in 1995, performing this work and "Waterzooie," in which the dancers played toy instruments, when anyone asked me what had impressed me most in New York, Maguy Marin's was the only name that came automatically to mind. Context number 3, superficially the least important but, unfortunately, the determinative one for my re-experience of "May B" last night, is that, among all the problems wrought by our Socialist ayatollah of a mayor over the last five years which have made living in Paris untenable, elevated pollution tops the list. We can't breathe. Thus taking refuge from the car exhaust in the theater last night only to find whatever white substance covered the performers and the stage wafting out into the audience and into my lungs was frustrating. Had this been anyone else's show, I woulda walked -- not to make a statement, but because I was uncomfortable. As it was Marin I stayed, but for the second third of the show my only goal was to make it to the finish, and it was only the haunting strength of the penultimate section that distracted me from this end. So let's concentrate on that, because sometimes a work delivers its most memorable wallop in one tableau or episode -- and when the artist is Maguy Marin, it just might be the wallop of an epoch.

The Maguy Marin company in Maguy Marin's 1981 "May B." Claude Bricage photo copyright Claude Bricage and courtesy Theatre de la Ville.

This one started with the ten personages re-entering with their existing or even added limitations. In addition to the hunchbacked girl (who had to hold one shoulder higher than the other for 90 minutes) and the fat-suited lady (see Aimee's of today for more on Maguy and the Fat Suits), there was now the blind man with a cane who the fat-suited lady huddled with, holding onto an arm and murmuring into his ear; a man in a wheelchair, blanket covering his lower body, whose Lennon-like shades indicated he might also be blind, and the friend attending him; and a master and servant, a relationship established by a tether and a noose. Three woman who all looked and comported themselves like (harmless) insane asylum inmates, one the hunchbacked dame, sat huddled downstage right rapidly conversing. I should add that throughout the piece, most of the five men wore simple nose extensions.

Suddenly a bright woman with a shower cap skittered onstage -- almost as if on skates -- holding a lit birthday cake. All ten assembled around the man in the wheelchair, and mouthed "Happy Birthday." Candles blown out, they dispersed to their corners, then started returning to the cake lady stage center to take a chunk, or even two, of the cake. The master gave the slave enough of a lead so that he could grab a huge chunk, only to reign him in and grab the whole thing as he was about to bite into it, the slave quickly becoming dejected and reduced to licking his now empty fingers. The blind man and the fat-suit woman stood upstage center stoically, not visibly bothered that they'd been left out. The one woman of the trio who'd managed to scavenge just the empty serving plate recoiled, hurt, after her comrade who'd taken two slices rebuffed her efforts to cajole some, stuffing the cake down her smock. As the cake dwindled, the chasm spread, enveloping not just the have-nots but the took-too-muches in the existential void. C'est fini? Maybe.

Maguy Marin's "May B," which has been performed some 600 times around the world since its 1981 creation, continues its current (and sold-out) Paris run, part of the centennial celebration of Samuel Beckett, Marin's inspiration, through Saturday at the Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt. On Tuesday, it was performed by the Maguy Marin company: Ulises Alvarez, Yoann Bourgeois, Teresa Cunha, Jordi Gali, Matthieu Perpoint, Cathy Polo, Jeanne Vallauri, Vania Vaneau, Vincent Weber, and Yasmine Youcef.

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