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Flash Review, 5-22: Love, Betrayal, & Bowling
Cast Gives Hultman Premiere the 'Trophy'

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2000 Susan Yung

Danspace Project's City/Dans presented Irene Hultman's new work,"Love, Betrayal and a Bowling Trophy" at St. Mark's Church over the weekend. Seen Friday, the evening-length piece displayed wonderful performances by Hultman's multi-talented cast (Colin Gee, Andrew Robinson, Gabrielle Mallone and Lisa Ostberg), who danced and acted with tremendous enthusiasm and wit. The accompanying soundtrack (David Linton is credited as music consultant and sound operator), as significant as a fifth cast member, ricochets between operatic arias and duets and familiar pop tunes.

The program cites initial inspiration for the piece as Don Juan and Lorenzo Da Ponte's libretto for Mozart's opera, "Don Giovanni," as well as other classic characterizations of Don Juan, but the frenetic pace of the performance and the sometimes inaudible recitation of lines subsumed by the music led me to simply savor the experience rather than attempt to explicate the texts used. The performers pounced on the ample physical expression called for, luxuriating in every gesture and phrase and animating the recurring themes of pride, seduction and valor. The women portrayed with relish gender stereotypes, flaunting their bodies like weapons in a war of roses.

With less accomplished performers, the impact of the piece surely would have suffered. Gee, a trained actor skilled in physical expression, served as the locus of the work, regularly offering up lines, monologues and non-sequiturs. Not to be outdone, Robinson talked while trotting in circles with Gee on his back. In a trio with the two men, Malone took terrific kinetic risks and showed a daring that approaches hip-hop, snapping her legs like bow strings and dropping to the floor in a breath. Ostberg has a generous sense of humor and played the vamp with a concentrated, convincing energy.

A danger of using operatic music as Hultman does is that it can be worn like an emotional cloak; merely donning it imparts a specific pathos which is just as quickly shed. On the other hand, the use of pop songs has a similar hotbutton effect (note the frequent use of pop tunes in current advertising to paint an immediate sentiment), instantly evoking the summers of one's youth ("Time of the Season") or the brittle machismo and inherent gender-casting of Frank Sinatra ("My Way"). The use of partial songs in "Love, Betrayal..." also provides for a denial of closure, a blunt discontinuity that is unsettling. But on the whole, the strong performers and Hultman's sense of humor kept the pot boiling. Lighting design was by Kathy Kaufmann; visual consultant was John Monti.

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