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Flash Review 3, 9-25: Everyday Puppets
Hurlin Finds 'Uses' for Inanimate Objects

By Susan Yung
Copyright 2000 Susan Yung

In "Everyday Uses for Sight: Nos. 3 & 7," Dan Hurlin created a daisy chain of incisively poignant, poetic moments, reaching the heart of each member of the sold-out audience at Saturday evening's performance at The Kitchen.

The two pieces on the program, both accompanied by live original music, each hung loosely on thematic hooks. "No. 3: 'The Home of Bill and Sandy Kelly,'" with a sax score by Dan Froot played by Roy Nathanson, referred to architecture, voyeurism, and personal identity. The main set piece was a scale model of a perfectly tacky split level suburban house whose various parts revealed the expected (martinis, t.v.) or detached to become something else (the shutters becoming a clubhouse.) Hurlin, through monologue, spun stories of his childhood and adolescence spent basking in the glow of the Kellys and their house, and told of his desires both romantic and from a design standpoint. The charismatic sax music by Froot enhanced the anomie of the suburban setting.

A small diorama downstage contained a puppet of Hurlin at 10 years old, manipulated simply from behind with rods or strings. It was joined by another puppet depicting an architectural historian obsessed with preserving the work of architect Louis Sullivan. These puppets were used sparingly and effectively, their scenes mixed in with Hurlin's stories and ramblings by another iteration of Hurlin as a young man, played by Christopher Williams. The combination of actors, set pieces, musicians, and puppets made a surprisingly cohesive structural concatenation.

"No. 7: 'The Heart of the Andes,'" with music written and performed by accordionist Guy Klucevsek, who plays a blind man, makes evident Hurlin's love for visual art. Using boxes that opened to reveal additional props or miniature paintings, frames and artworks suspended and layered, and other set pieces containing magical little devices, the piece was like an irresistible pop-up book for grown ups. And Hurlin's train of thought was literally manifested visually, linking chapter to chapter with elegant connectors. Klucevsek's accordion music captivated -- it was whimsical, enchanting, and haunting.

"Everyday Uses," while not technically dance, was a thoroughly entertaining, physical performance. The level of Hurlin's craft -- from the manufacture of props to the surgically precise, intricate movements he followed to breathe life into his fragile, inanimate objects -- combined with his confident comic persona to outright charm the audience. He makes wonderful theater, plain and simple.

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