nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 22, 2008
Jack Ferver's new performance piece, Meat, is billed as a diptych. Triptychs are more usual, but Meat's two complimentary halves work well together, and make for an entirely satisfying evening at Dixon Place's HOT! Festival.
The second half, "What Are the Garbage Bags For?", is the more straightforward, narratively speaking. It's a stylized retelling of the true story of Lisa Marie Nowak, a former astronaut who was arrested for trying to kidnap her lover's (other) girlfriend, Colleen. Ferver imagines Lisa and Bill (the shared love interest) falling for each other in deep space, making love in an anti-gravity situation in the funniest section of the show. He also explores the increasingly possessive, increasingly impotent shunned woman who becomes desperate to hold onto her man, and/or gain revenge against or at least understanding of her rival. Lisa's story explodes in a wild and crazy rendition of Donna Summer's "MacArthur Park": the lyrics somehow make sense in this context, which is a kind of achievement all of its own.
"I Am Trying to Hear Myself," the first half of Meat, tells a more generalized and abstract story of power and sex within a relationship. Much of it consists of dance in silence—repetitions of movements and themes that evolve into brutal couplings that become progressively more intense. An interesting element of this piece is that the final coupling, in which the two partners are partially nude, is less erotic than the earlier couplings where the dancers are clothed.
Meat is choreographed by Ferver with his assistant Caitlin Michener, and performed by Ferver with Reid Bartelme, Jason Somma, and Liz Santoro. The dancing of these four is what makes Meat so special: they move beautifully, with grace and vigor and remarkable energy, and they are able to communicate with their movements more than many actors can communicate with spoken language. Bartelme's range is especially impressive—not only does he swing one leg into the air almost completely perpendicular to the floor, but he also sings beautifully, a cappella, in what I would classify as a pure counter-tenor. Somma partners Ferver in the first section of the show and both Ferver and Santoro (who play rivals Liz and Colleen, respectively, to his Bill) in the second. He's a powerful presence, exuding a moody sexuality.
Ferver's dancing is fascinating, playing with and challenging gender, both overtly (as in "Garbage Bags," where he plays a female character without trying hard to "look" like one) and covertly (subversively?), as in the Prologue to Meat, where he transforms himself into a Joan Crawford-esque mankiller simply by walking just so, on his toes, as if his bare feet were shod in spike heels.
This is the second piece of Ferver's I have seen (after last summer's When We Were Young and Filled with Fear). I was excited by how much deeper and clearer this work is, and enchanted by its physical beauty. I look forward to whatever Ferver and his collaborator come up with next.