nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
November 6, 2008
Time Step, the latest show from physical theatre experts Parallel Exit, is an hour of pure delight: I found myself grinning over and over again as the exhilaration kept diffusing from stage to audience (and back again).
Directed by Mark Lonergan, and choreographed and danced by the inordinately talented Ryan Kasprzak, Brent McBeth, and Derek Roland, Time Step is an all-tap performance. It is not a tap ballet; it is, in the spirit of Lonergan's past works, more a live-action cartoon/silent film—think Buster Keaton and Bugs Bunny—blended with the suave insouciance of classic MGM musical comedy, the kind where the Nicholas Brothers suddenly turn up for absolutely no reason whatsoever and launch into a breathtakingly complicated and energetic five-minute dance routine. There's a story to Time Step, but mostly this show is about the sheer joy of movement.
The play begins in 1948, at a performance of the Dapper Tap Trio at their peak—a thrilling number that showcases the distinctive styles of the three dancers: Kasprzak is loose-limbed and appealingly goofy (and he has a signature move that I can only describe as Groucho Marx-meets-Gene Kelly), McBeth is athletic and Astaire-ishly classy, and Roland is effortless, smooth, and elegant, all beautiful angles and lines.
We then flash forward to the present day, and here are the dancers again, now somewhere in their 80s, living together in a New York apartment and going through the motions—and rhythms—of their daily rituals. This second scene is pure Lonergan, a deft bit of comical character exposition accomplished entirely with percussive beats—the blam! of a deck of cards hitting a table, the sluuurrrrp of coffee being swallowed, the clackety-clack of a spoon in a cereal bowl.
We discover that our heroes are deeply in debt and that the only way out for them may be to enter (and win) a senior citizens' talent show. Are they too old to do their thing again? A dream sequence recalling another moment of their former glory gives way to a charming number in which they build themselves a new tap routine without ever having to leave their chairs. (It should be noted that Roland's character uses a cane and is apparently blind without his spectacles, while Kasprzak's seems to need a walker to propel himself delicately across the floor.)
Convinced that they can recapture their youthful magic, they set out on a rigorous (and funny) training program in preparation for the contest. I don't want to give anything more about the story away; see Time Step to find out if they are ultimately triumphant or not.
What I will tell you is that the tapping is pretty much nonstop and infectiously entertaining. These guys are pros, and even when they pretend to be octogenarians they have ten times the grace and style that ordinary mortals have in their prime. The choreography is lighthearted and exciting and funny at the same time.
The presentation—featuring lighting by Eric J. Kwak and nifty tuxedoes by Juliet Jeske—is simplicity itself. Continuity is provided with very occasional projected titles and some humorous, spare narration by Parallel Exit collaborator Joel Jeske.
Did I mention that Kasprzak, McBeth, and Roland are superb?
We aren't seeing much tap on Broadway these days, and I for one miss it. Hey, Mr. Producer: here's a swell tap show, all ready for a long life beyond Joyce Soho. Check it out!