FringeArts Review – Like um, dancing around

Nature Theater of Oklahoma- Live & Times ep. 2

by Lewis Whittington for The Dance Journal

Nature Theater of Oklahoma is actually an experimental theater troupe from New York and they are in performance at the Wilma Theatre with Life and Times-Episodes 1-5. It chronicles the lives of 18 people from childhood to adulthood, in painful, embarrassing, mind numbing detail.

Episode 2 tracks the lives of four girls and on boy from those magical ages 8 to 14.  They all have 70s style Nike track suits on with midriff peaks when then move around, like a beginner  rhythmic gymnastics class, the movement underlines their awkwardness. This element is nonetheless very admirable because their rudimentary steps are constant and so are the character’s monologues, which are all sung to the synth-rhythm beatbox.

These are equal part hilarious and profoundly banal tales of growing up. We hear about first kisses,  Cindy and Cheryl touchy friendship, Bob‘s first crush on another boy,  the cruel cliques, bickering parents, Playboys in the closet, first dances, humiliations at school, boys on the make, shaming parents, petty rivalries, soap opera lust, teen drinking and pretty much every other cliche.

If nothing else it adroitly shows the devolution of conversation plagued with set up words like -’LIKE’, um, huh, and other verbal  shorthand.  The text is taken verbatim from a 16-hour audio, by an unnamed member of the troupe. At various points up to 18 other members of the troupe appear as the background chorus to relieve some of the monotony.

Similarly, the movement alternates between awkward group scrambles and witty mechanicals ala Brady Bunch choreography with pelvic grinds thrown in. But, the static patterns, of word and movement start to cloy, saving episode 2 from deflating at several points, the cast‘s strong singing voices come to rescue.   When a large mirrored disco ball, you hope for some liberated steps, but it’s back to karaoke dance at least in this episode.

Conceived and Directed by PAVOL LISKA and KELLY COPPER
Original music ROBERT M. JOHANSON and JULIE LAMENDOLA

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