nytheatre.com review by Loren Noveck
August 14, 2008
Full of striking visuals and murky symbolism, dimly lit, and with very little dialogue and no discernible narrative, The Dream-Casting feels in fact much like an unsettling, barely remembered dream. I don't really have any idea what the piece is meant to be about, if anything—with almost no dialogue in two-thirds of the piece and a fairly abstract movement vocabulary, meaning must be gleaned from the lyrics to the backing soundtrack, fairly generic sentiments about awakening spirits, entering the dream, and overcoming duality, with a strange central interlude involving two extraterrestrial witches in the form of sparkling hand-puppets—but it's filled with moments of eye-catching imagery.
The video projections (by the show's creator, Huilo Marvavilla, and 111) are mesmerizing—filling an entire side of the stage with a constant kaleidoscope of color and movement. Unfortunately, the first section of the show, "The Awakening," takes place pretty much without stage lighting; the video is really the only thing you can see clearly. There are shadowy dancers moving on the stage, and at the end, a giant, glowing spider puppet and two figures (wizards?) bearing vaguely illuminated abstract sculptures make an appearance. Throughout, a man in black creeps around in the audience. The whole thing is made even more dreamlike by the setting, one of the Spiegeltents, with mirrors all around the perimeter of the space catching glints of the video and reflecting them back. And the final section, "Liberating the Now," is kind of like the first section, only more so—instead of abstract dancers in the shadows, we have giant sculptural masks representing ancient Meso-American gods (Mayan, I think) dancing; the lyrics in the background music move from the first section's message of, well, awakening to this idea of ending duality, embracing the mercy of time, and freeing the spirit from some sort of constraints.
The middle section, "Tea with Duality," is, I think, supposed to bridge the two. Even though this is the only place where people really speak, I found it less comprehensible than the rest—a woman with a newspaper mutters and shrieks while two intergalactic travelers (sisters known as Witch Hazel and La Contessa, both puppets) talk about intergalactic and interdimensional travel and their purpose in the universe. Although not as shadowy as the first section, this part is also fairly dimly lit, with the video—here a swirling backdrop that I assume represents the intergalactic void—by far the brightest thing in the room.
In his comments to the audience, the master of ceremonies, Marvavilla, notes that he recasts the piece with local performers wherever he goes, and rehearses for only a few days; the physical elements are permanent and travel with the show but the actual performance elements are mostly improvisational. This definitely shows. Mostly hidden behind masks, big abstract costumes, or puppets, the performers become part of the visual landscape of the piece rather than characters or even dancers; although the piece is nominally movement-based, the dancing itself is very simple and rhythmic, not even feeling choreographed. The props, costumes, and videos, not surprisingly, are therefore much richer and more memorable than the performance elements—which is evocative but strange in a piece of performance art.