Better This Way
nytheatre.com review by Edward Elefterion
August 17, 2007
I spent the majority of the 45-minute runtime of Deliberate Motion's Better This Way wondering what was going on. Who are these people? What is their relationship to each other, to the space, to the roughly six-foot square canvas used as a movie screen, and to the moving images that ran on that screen for the whole show? What are they talking about? And why? And why should I care?
An intensely focused Scott Troost plays a man in jeans and a dark t-shirt who meets or otherwise comes into contact with two women, played by the equally bright and charming Tina Nikolova and Shannon Fillion, who also co-directed the piece. The women are dressed in similarly styled white dresses which signify (maybe) that the two women are truly the same woman. The duo (played as a trio) interacts through choreographed physical movements and text. The man leaves the woman/women alone. Then the woman/women leave the stage. Moving images of the two women (dressed in contemporary casual attire) walking in various desolate environments are projected behind the action for the entire show.
The program describes Better This Way as an "original theatrical event." No argument there. People gathered in a room and witnessed several actions that were performed by non-spectators in non-pedestrian ways. The postcard and other publicity indicate Persephone as the subject. I knew this before I went to the theatre and yet, even after the performance, I had no idea that this event was centered upon or otherwise inspired by the story of Persephone, with which I am quite familiar.
In probing my experience and imagining what the creators/performers of Better This Way were after, I was reminded that the central motivating factor of theatre (and all the arts) is communication. That's why writers, actors, directors, designers, painters, musicians, sculptors, architects, all artists and pretenders to art do what they do. Not all works of art succeed in bridging the communication gap, but all begin with an impulse, be it intellectual or emotional in nature, that needs expression. I'm certain that Better This Way was born of such an impulse as there were, undoubtedly, several ideas governing the artists' choices.
Better This Way needs a context that will influence and affect the meaning of the events onstage, thereby enabling the audience to make sense of the experience. Even a non-linear theatre event that uses multimedia and simultaneous action to explore the associative power of images and words needs the same rock-solid structure as traditional linear-minded narrative theatre. I daresay even more so. In this light, Better This Way's ambitious conception outweighs its execution.