5 performers, each in vintage laden bold colors- orange, blue, purple, yellow, red- stand in a line and stare at the house. The cast is “introduced” and I don’t need to look in my program to learn names or backgrounds. They are highly reputable dancers in this community and each of them is going to shine in Megan Mayer’s production, which is enticingly titled “I Could Not Stand Close Enough to You.” This is my first Megan Mayer experience and I’m reminded of the unique, colorful, clever and detailed work of film director Wes Anderson, who is gifted at working with iconic figures from the Hollywood scene by filming eccentric characters that resonate with a certain familiarity.
Megan wrote in her artist statement that she wanted to “create distinctive solos for each of the performers inspired by their commanding presences both onstage and off.” She was successful! Here’s what I observed:
Greg Waletski’s solo was charming and playful as he reveled in exuberance shouting “Oh my God!” as he climbed the stairs into the house of the Southern Theater. I’m reminded of joyful first experiences in my childhood- the thrill of the stage, pride in the small successes.
Kristin Van Loon performed an exquisite solo inverted against the wall to Louie Armstrong lyrics “I put a spell on you…..” I was intrigued by the manipulation of her face with her hands to create a caricature of someone devious and determined. She stopped, took a sip of whiskey, sprayed down her mane with aerosol hairspray, then returned to the wall. Oh yeah, we get a sneak peak at some striped underwear (a foreshadowing of the closing scene). She is utterly captivating as a performer on stage with her authentic responses, intentional articulation and total body connection.
Charles Campbell, the performer who ate regurgitated green peas and urinated on the stage floor of Bryant Lake Bowl in a piece I saw back a few months ago (which by the way was unforgettable!), shared a triumphant piece with a trophy. Napoleon Dynamite only wishes he could dance that well!
And now Megan Mayer, the creator. Here we go……….. She struggles to find that picture perfect shape then beats the air with her limbs before crumbling to the floor. She’s up and bourres (spell?) offstage and returns with a bar stool to take a seat and sing Elvis’s heartbreaking lyrics “Were you lying when you said you loved me?” She passes out from the drama? the exertion? the heartache?- we laugh. She retreats to a hidden corner upstage against the shins. We see her blue legs as the cast stays centerstage and improvises with crossed legs on chairs.
Drums kick in- a duple meter aerobics routine begins- the 4 performers create a rhythmic machine that rotates and they begin to talk about hmmmm, an inside joke?
Lights and sound out. I hear ventilation and rattling in the Southern. No one in the house moves or coughs. Megan returns to the space with a light and she illuminates the walls, the grid, the house, and the dancers. It’s very zen as we all become present to take a moment and examine this space with fresh eyes.
Theresa Madaus is the last to perform a solo. She is the kid sister of the group, but she holds her own performing a little ditty with finger puppets, running, and finishes by flying home into the arms of her family. Dig the green high tops!
After a mambo routine, the cast takes their clothes off to reveal psychadelic undies. They line up down centerstage and they synchronistically fall back – a unified group- to the upstage brick wall, pinned, poised, finished.
I’m curious about Megan’s process in relation to the spontaneity of the flow of the performance. One thing is apparent, there was a strong sense of community and comradre amidst the performers. They danced together, and respectfully complimented the soloist that took a turn in the spotlight. I can only imagine that rehearsals were fun and playful. Nice.