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Flash Review 1, 9-25: Commitment
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) free beer!

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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