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Flash Review 2, 11-20: Classic Theater-Going
Big Dance Theater from Big Dance Theater

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2000 Maura Nguyen Donohue

I have to admit this is a difficult assignment for me. I'm usually a prodigious note taker and often begin composing parts of the review during the show, but Saturday night at the Performing Garage I was privy to a classic theater-going experience. I was transported, taken on a journey and so thoroughly engaged in the developing action that I have little to refer back to except my overwhelming sense of satisfaction at an evening very well spent with Big Dance Theater.

True to my word to a certain downtown producer I won't mention a show I saw recently, as a cast member's friend and not a dance insider, that had unsuccessfully attempted to combine the same elements that Big Dance Theater's Obie- and Bessie-winning "Another Telepathic Thing" does. They're both working with dance, theater, song and narrative but one landscape is intensely inhabited with lively presence and the other was decidedly deadening. Though "Another Telepathic Thing" is directed by Paul Lazar and Annie-B. Parson, the company is credited with the creation of the work. Cast members designed the costumes, composed the songs, and contributed to the script and choreography. Artistic ownership, a strong sense of ensemble and powerful presence are the obvious fruits of such a collaborative process. As my companion to both recent theatrical events pointed out, it's the difference between something that exists solely in the head of its director and work that lives in its performers. It also reflects the wealth of experience and knowledge that Parson and Lazar share. These are creative artists who are secure enough in their understanding of form to play with it instead of imitating someone else's idea of contemporary theater.

The cast is phenomenal, blending Mark Twain's dark short story "The Mysterious Stranger" with authentic, illicit audio tapes taken from movie auditions. Stacy Dawson, looking like a sedated Amanda Plummer in her blond wig, brings the Angel Satan to light with exquisite composure and refinement. Each of her deceptions are affected without malice but with a cold understanding of the bitter truth, or rather the truly false beliefs we hapless humans maintain in a search for happiness. Molly Hickok's overzealous casting director and trial judge are studies in precision and optimum energy output. Tymberly Canale has a way of insinuating impending mischief as she dances and at the same time sweet innocence as Marget, the niece to Paul Lazar's poor, troubled Father Peter. Cynthia Hopkins's narration and songs are bewitching and David Neumann's easy, sleazy Astrologer belongs in a Vegas revue.

The work is ripe with tightly realized moments and vivid visual images. Joanne Howard and Sky Lanigan's scenic elements evoke the mystical environs of the tale, and the always illuminating Jay Ryan adds to the winning combination with his elegant lighting design. "Another Telepathic Thing," co-presented by Dance Theater Workshop, runs through December 9, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with no show on Thanksgiving. For more info, call (212) 966-3651.

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