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Flash Review 1, 9-25:
Wild & Witty for Spoke the Hub
By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2000 Maura Nguyen Donohue
So I thought I was spending
my Saturday night listening to a bit o' music in between seeing
a bit o' dance from Faith Pilger and Veronica Dittman at a benefit
held at Gowanus for Brooklyn's Spoke the Hub Dancing. Surprisingly,
in the spirit of Brooklyn's oldest multi-purpose, multi-faceted
community arts organization I got to witness a multi-talented group
of artists strut their wild and witty wares. Pilger and Dittman
brought together a fantastic group of singers, dancers, musicians,
comedians, food and very thankfully (future producers please note)
The Band "Cooking School"
provided various breaks with everything from lively lounge to classical
grunge, while amicable Louis Schwadron hosted from a love seat.
He opened with a ramble on hosting and declared himself the ghost
of camp counselors past as he took the audience through a song about
Olympic swimming and Haagen Daaz. In Late Nite format he interviewed
each of the performers after they "showed some art." Schwadron's
song for his five-year-old nephew about whores and prostitutes and
stealing from the Mafia was like Adam Sandler on speed, instead
of what I consider to be a different mood altering substance required
to truly understand the dope.
Juicy Shelley Watson's
"Vocal Violations" combined her 'legitimate' classical music abilities
with her raucous stand-up persona. She was pure rock star in Zebra-striped
pants and hat as she used her opera-trained voice to wonderful comic
effect in her Heart-inspired "Can O' Tuna." She's what I like to
pretend I sound like when I'm belting Pat Benatar songs at karaoke
clubs in Koreatown. She also shared her skills in domination and
spanking during her Late Nite interview.
Last time I saw Katie
Workum she was facing rejection face down on the floor of The Flea
Theater. This weekend she once again employed a riotous humor to
address heartbreak, STDs and marital stress in her rambunctious
"The Love Song that Almost (dear Lord) but Never (thank God) Got
Sung (outloud at least)." Workum is consummately lovable, and barely
contained by a long white train, as she jumps, stumbles, falls and
tumbles while playing guitar and singing. Her "Dinner for One" was
a well-timed duet with Leigh Garrett. Simultaneous and overlapping
outbursts continue into movement that fulfills the chain of events.
Their Late Nite interview was better than anything Madonna and Dave
Letterman could've come up with as Schwadron played word-at-a-time
interview with them.
The vibrant performances
of such 'strong and strangely present' performers heightened my
awareness of the importance of commitment in live performance. It
becomes obvious in stand-up comedy that success is often reliant
on the performer's willingness to stick to the schtick when working
a crowd. Never show doubt that what you're doing isn't the funniest,
or most interesting, thing ever. The importance of individual commitment
and presence also revealed itself as important because of it's unfortunate
absence from each of the works offered by Pilger and Dittman. Though
I don't doubt that they are both adept dancers, I fear that the
strains of producing such a varied program left them little time
to hone their performances into something more than superficial
movement performance. Each of their duets seemed more reliant on
the music, often mixed by Duncan Neilson, than any choreographic
exploration. The often witty songs overshadowed the dances, which
came across most often as unfinished sketches.
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