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ASYLUM

nytheatre.com review by Pamela Butler
August 10, 2012

Opening day of FringeNYC and I am treated to the inspired and inspiring work of UPROCK, an urban fringe dance group that has put together Asylum, a dynamic and moving evening of expressive dance set to techno and new music, a bit of rap and a bit of poetry. Bobby Miga, the company's founder/director, and Ed Esco, creative director/choreographer have created a piece that begs for a long list of adjectives to describe it: inventive, spirited, passionate, joyful, accomplished—just to start.

The story begins with a child, where we all begin. We're so innocent when we're young, but then life, with its dangers and rewards, is waiting for us to join the game. Depending on our circumstances, we may play the hand we're dealt rashly, or wrongly, or maybe we just get trumped.

Each of the characters here, unlucky in one way or another, is thrown into a mental hell, and then an asylum, a place for despairing, broken spirits. They have early on experienced betrayal, weakness, loss, disillusionment; they have wrestled with their demons and lost, but they do not give up the fight. Do they find salvation and break free of their chains? It is definitely worthwhile for you to go see for yourself.

The production elements work beautifully together here. The choreography is tight and powerfully expressive; the staging is minimal, symbolic and very effectively used. UPROCK seems to be peripatetic and operates as a community not into credits, so no one person is noted for lighting design, music tracks, costumes or staging, but the combined effects are well wrought and integrated with imagination and intelligent attention to detail.

According to their online press materials, there are ten company members. They are, in addition to Miga and Esco, in alphabetical order; Everett Blair, Samuel Hills, Patrick James, Solo Mendes, Renee Michele, Jose Nararlo, Kendre Nichole and Caroline Vic.

Each is a talented, accomplished athlete and performer. Athlete for their dance skills and stamina, performer because each can really act and present solid personalities on stage. Several of the scenes are so powerfully expressed I was overwhelmed with unexpected emotion, something that rarely happens to me in the theatre. I don't want to give anything away even though I would like to highlight a bunch of things. It wouldn't be fair to your experience.

Alas the audience was scant and they deserved far more applause than we could muster. Even their curtain call is a work of art. I do hope if you are looking for a real Fringe experience, you will not miss Asylum.

A couple of notes. There is a strobe light for those who might be adversely affected, and some audience participation.