nytheatre.com review by Sharon Fogarty
August 15, 2004
Choreographer/director J’aime Morrison was luckily available for a moment to mention why she was inspired by Vuillard’s themes. “I come from a family of seamstresses,” she offered; Edouard Vuillard was a Nabis painter (les Nabis—from the French word for prophet—were a Parisian group of post-impressionists-turned-illustrators) who lived surrounded by feminine domesticity, a theme that became the signature of many of his works. Morrison is adept at humorously recreating Vuillard’s "room" in this new dance-theatre piece.
Five outstanding dancer/actors emerge from the living texture of Susan Zeeman Rogers’ eloquently patterned scene design, wearing the impressive early 19th century costumes by Maro Parian. Carine Montbertrand is especially amusing in the role of Mme. Vuillard who, when her English or French text (all from Vuillard’s journal entries) seems to evaporate, is forced to communicate her frustration physically. Tom O’Reilly gives a sweet and humble performance of Vuillard amidst the kinetic weaving and grieving of his feminine counterparts, while Morrison herself is electric as the visiting seamstress who eventually becomes a competitor to Vuillard’s sister, Marie.
In the role of Marie is Aimae Phelan Deconinck, one of the most captivating actress/dancers I have seen in a long time, whose statuesque elegance and technique are only overshadowed by her powerful acting ability. Deconinck appears to act from her spine as she flips between gestures of longing to connect, to those conveying an intense desire to disappear. Marie is depicted as someone too sensitive for this world and yet she is thrust into an encounter with the striking and worldly artist Roussel. Joshua Seidner’s performance in this role is splendid, with likeable arrogance as he carelessly sweeps Marie off her feet, only to become quickly unfaithful to her. Like a crazed dollmaker, Deconinck’s gesture of pulling a needle and thread begins to tug at her solar plexus as if fixing a painful tear in her heart.
Other highlights include a scene in which Roussel’s camera (an ancient silver plate with black pleated housing) is placed upon the headless neck of a dress dummy. Vuillard manipulates the dummy to "film" the love scene between Roussel and Marie, against Yasushi Kamata’s cleverly impressionistic rendition of Schumann’s Arabesque. Another gem is the memorable final image, featuring Vuillard observing his flickering friends as the lights, a clever and soft design by Yael Lubetsky, fade back into a blank canvas.
I am certainly hoping to see more of these dramatic movement tales by Morrison’s newly formed company, aptly labeled Cross Stitch.