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Flash Review 3, 2-11: Juice and Jouissance
Hearts Leap Into Throats at St. Mark's

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000 Chris Dohse

"Tell Me the Truth About Love," seen Thursday at St. Mark's Church, is a collaborative musical theater event, assembling a selection of W. H. Auden's verse, set to music, with peripheral dancing. Composer Paul Boesing complements Auden's words in a way that enriches the sometimes simple rhyme schemes of the chosen material. Many of his individual songs fit the poems so fully--and Tom Bogdan's performance of the songs rings so true--that the printed versions will hereafter lie flat on the page. Auden's love affair with his life-long companion Chester Kallman provides the adhesive for a series of episodes, a portrait of a sometimes stormy, always passionate, legendary, decades-spanning homosexual "marriage" that braced its ups and downs before Gay Liberation or Queer Nation. Some songs mince with a Cowardly camp, illustrating Auden as an effete aesthete, but when the mood turns melancholy, the space fills with the ghosts of all our failed loves.

Vocalist Bogdan portrays Auden, while Peter Schmitz acts as his physical doppelgÉnger. Paul Matteson dances the various Chesters, before a translucent crazy quilt designed by Jim Hodges, appropriately patched.

Terry Creach's choreography evolves seductively from Bogdan's pedestrian gestures and poise. When a small ensemble of dancers (Matteson and Schmitz are joined by Olase Freeman and Bradley Lundberg) do engage in some of Creach's signature rough-and-tumble, the vocabulary resembles Creach's premiere from last week's Symphony Space concert, "A History of Private Life," with its oomph removed, but suitably so, in this lyrical, diffused setting. A duet between Matteson and Schmitz depicts all the longing of Eros gone awry.

With just the right amounts of juice and jouissance, this simple, forthright, deeply felt, emphatically gay assemblage reminds us that romance is created largely from nostalgia. Many were the heavy sighs and hearts leaping into throats among the audience this Valentine week.

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