by Edwina Thertulien for The Dance Journal
Myzrie House was a full-length work presented as a Reflection:Response Commission through the Institute of Dance Scholarship at Temple University. The performance, which was an hour-long of storytelling through theatre and dance, was co-created by West Philly-based artists Mark Wong and Nicole Burgio, who are also married. Their background in dance training includes Breaking and Circus Arts, respectively. As mentioned in the program notes, the plot of Myzrie House revolves around “two people [who] are thrust into a mysterious cell together for reasons unknown.” The program notes also go on to pose some questions to the audience: “Can they escape? Are they meant to become friends, more than friends, or perhaps enemies?”
The show starts with a projection of images that resemble an alien invasion, war, and an overall apocalyptic catastrophe. The mass chaos portrayed preludes the events that will soon take place onstage. As the stage lights come up, a figure laying amid an array of casually yet systematically placed boxes is revealed. Around the perimeter of the stage is a red rope light that remains unlit for the time being. Its purpose was revealed later. The figure (who we find out to be Mark Wong) wakes up and immediately performs movements that resemble daily chores, performing them automatically and without thinking (as one does when one brushes their teeth or wash dishes.)
The evolving scenes were accompanied by the use of different sounds, effects, and carefully chosen songs. Ranging from the popular to easily recognizable sound effects (i.e., Back to Life by Soul II Soul and a leveling up sound effect from a popular Nintendo game), the music selections were put together in great detail and enhanced with editing.
Eventually, Nicole Burgio’s character is introduced, first through projection in the background and then to her arriving onstage on an aerial hoop. As the two dancers meet for what appears to be the first time, both seem perplexed and hesitant. The audience bears witness to their relationship as it evolves and they learn to navigate the reality of their situation.
Much like all of us having been confined by the Covid pandemic, they are trapped and held within the bordering red rope lights. Each time they get too close, the lights quickly flash on and off, causing them to fall to the floor as if they had been shocked for attempting to escape. The two seem to have been put in this environment on purpose as if they were specimens for observation in an experiment.
As their relationship evolves, we observe their resilience as it is put to the test. We watch as they find joy in living together despite their entrapment. At one point, they must work as a team to retrieve an apple that has descended from above their living space. Eventually, we observe them disunite, fighting over and losing that same apple that they worked so hard to retrieve. Myzrie House explores all of the possibilities of their relationship – even the possibility of that inhibiting red light, for once, turning green.
Through its youthful comedic appeal, endearing characters, and comprehensive storyline, Myzerie House explores the resilience of love, boundaries and boundlessness, the complexity of relationships, and unity resulting from alienation. In the end, we are left with our own questions… What happens when they make it outside of the red ring? Will their relationship dissolve when they do? Would I be able to withstand such living conditions with my loved ones?
The performance ended with a bow done to the song How Deep Is Your Love by Calvin Harris and Disciples. The bow, I believe, was the cherry on top of the entire performance because it takes the themes explored in Myzerie House and places them in the audience’s hands to propose that very question to themself – How deep is your love?
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