Anna Shogren – LA BREA“ …the animals might become trapped like a fly caught on flypaper…not likely to pass on a free meal, a pack of dire wolves or a sabertoothed cat would attack the mired animal… After an intense struggle over the helpless prey, some of the attacking predators would become trapped as well. In turn, scavengers would eat those animals and also risk entrapment…” – RETURN TO THE ICE AGE: The La Brea Exploration GuideBlack Tar. Immortality. The grim Reaper. What if I die alone? A film in black and white composed of moody close ups. Does the grim reaper like being the grim reaper or does death ever want to change professions, work at a bank say? What is the difference between a Wooly Mammoth and a Mastodon? How is a mattress like a tar pit? And can you get stuck in one as deeply and permanently as you can get stuck in the other? Are the performers stuck in a pit of molten asphalt? Am I here to scavenge an easy meal? Will I too get stuck in the mire?Nastalie Bogira and Katie Rose McLaughlin were incredible in this work. One of my biggest questions in leaving the theater was, what does Anna tell them in rehearsal, what are they doing and what are they thinking when they are doing it? Whatever they are doing, it looks difficult to me. In watching the material I feel that every physical moment has been totally crafted from top to bottom and the surgical clarity with which all of the performers executed these moments was a joy to watch. Looking back, it is difficult to remember many of the details of Katie Rose and Nastalie’s performances because of Anna’s constant and purposeful upstaging of them. This I saw through out the piece, from Anna’s first, brief entrances to the extended trio danced to the mix-tape.’I feel very aware of myself as an audience member when I watch Anna’s work. The performance, the theatrical device asks me, “ are you watching, are you still watching?” I also am always zeroing in on the details – the meticulously awkward costumes, the delicate lighting. I enjoy finding the details, the easter-eggs hidden in the grass, the precise little patterns and I wonder if I am the only one seeing them. Anna enters wearing a blue and green vest and just before leaving the stage takes it off – repeat one time.The entrance of the mattress was a great surprise and I enjoyed imagining the contrast of texture on foot it provided. Though the recorded text played during Nastalie’s prolonged solo on the mattress threw me for a bit of a loop, the image had a long time to resonate with me. I had time there to think about sleep, sex, the persistence of things, flammability, depression and sleep deprivation, multifunctionality. These thoughts kept flying though my head during the death scene at the end of the mix-tape section. Nastalie is dead on the floor, Katie Rose is pleading for help and Anna seems to be immobilized. Or is she a ghost and is Katie Rose looking right through her. Is this a reenactment of a scene from Our Town, from the movie Ghost? The duration of the scene allows the initial resonance of the image to pass by and creates the room for additional thought to percolate up to the surface.When watching Anna’s work, the movement always seems secondary to the subtext. Though murky and mysterious I always have the feeling that I am watching a play or a situation between the players and there just happens to be a dance in their bodies at the same time. I find it fascinating in the way that the subtext, which I am never quite able to decipher, creates a kind of annoying, eye-stinging fog that blocks me from fully reading the theatricality and forces me to go looking to the physicality for clues to help me put it together. What is happening to these people? Why do they keep looking at me? Are they trapped? Am I trapped with them in the game of pretend that we are willfully engaging in? And then there is the duration, the feeling of time passing slowly like a glacier, smoothing out the jagged bumps of the present into the easy rolling hills of the future.Eddie Oroyen – BROWN ROCKETWhereas Anna’s work is all neutral tones and close ups, Eddies piece is Acid techicolor and full blown. The set, a crazy-quilt of neon painted flats suggesting a bohemian apartment encircle the couple who enter happy with oversize smiles (almost phychotic) and dancing in unison at the beginning of the work. They are also crowded in by the presence of a live band that Eddie assembled on Craig’s Listthat plays original music that, at times rocks really hard and at others, sounds sickly sweet. At the top of the piece, Eddie Oroyen and Laura Selle detonate themselves onto the stage and I am thoroughly and immediately impressed by their dancing. Thoughout the work, I am aware of the sheer physical endurance and gymnastic virtuosity that must be required to perform Eddie’s muscular, extra-large, balls-to-the-wall choreography.What unfolds is a story of a steamy relationship gone bad. He is an intense artist (she doesn’t like/get his work). And she is a frigid, ice-queen, psycho bitch. I wasn’t able to figure out much else about her. Except perhaps that she has a thing about snowballs. This is what I found most troubling about the work. I sensed a real emotional edge in the story, a certain danger about Eddies decision to depict what looks like a truly poisonous relationship, but I saw it as a one-sided telling of the story. I think part of my difficulty with this was the difference in gaze, especially to the audience, I noticed between Eddie and Laura. Laura’s attention was always directed to Eddie. She is such a sensitive and emotionally available performer. I often had the feeling that Laura was performing dialogue and not movement. However, I often noticed that Eddie’s gaze was out to me, the audience, commenting on the action. This set up a hierarchy of story I suppose. By that I mean that this was clearly Eddie’s recalling of a story about a crazy relationship, and not a relationship playing out before me. The difference is subtle, but I wonder if I would have had the same difficulty with the piece if Eddie’s focus had been more toward Laura.One scene I found particularly effective in “ Brown Rocket” was the moment when Laura goes behind a screen to presumably remove her clothes and re-enters, not nude or in lingere, but wearing aninflatable cowboy riding a horse costume. It was a great surprise and at first I laughed heartily. And then I wondered if this character, who had been so hesitant to engage in sexual activity in the first half of the piece, had a fetish for inflatable costumes. Certainly an unexpected development which shed a new light on the previous scenes. I also loved how awkward the costume was. The image of the two (three) of them on the floor attempting to roll in the hay was both funny and touching. When something is wrong in a relationship, when one or both partners are stressed, the first place this manifests is in bed. The sex suffers and the stressor, whatever it may be, goes to bed with the couple, much like the horse on the inflatable costume. I found this to be the most striking and thought provoking moment of the whole piece.