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Rogovoy Report For August 1, 2014

There was a lot going on – a lot to see, a lot to hear, a lot to process all at once – onstage at the Doris Duke Theatre at Jacob’s Pillow last night, where “Chalk and Soot” by Dance Heginbotham and Brooklyn Rider, featuring SharaWorden and Gabriel Kahane, had its world premiere performance. With five dancers from Dance Heginbotham; a libretto based on poetry by the artist WassilyKandinsky and sung on and offstage by Worden; a new live score by composer Colin Jacobsen, who also performed on violin as a member of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and who were also drafted into movement (as was Worden); with everyone fully costumed and lit; and with the whole thing staged by John Heginbotham, the overall effect was one of a contemporary chamber opera, and a dizzying and delightful one at that.

None of these elements or personnel were wasted, either. Heginbotham wasn’t just going to have the musicians sitting over in a corner in a circle in tuxes and tails out of the action. For the first act, they were spread out in a large semicircle with their backs to the audiences. After intermission, they were tucked in close up- and center-stage, forming a kind of band behind Worden, who we only heard but did not see in the first half.

But Worden, who if anyone did nearly stole the show, wasn’t just going to stand and sing. Hers was a spectral presence, almost not-human, given an impossibly angled shaped thanks to Maile Okamura’s costume, and given her own stunning mien – she was as much an actor as she was a singer.

I don’t want to give too much away, because part of the delight of the show is to sit back and enjoy the flow of images and ideas, new arrangements and interactions. Heginbotham’s dancers were lithe for the most part, themselves characters as much as bodies that move, and they could be variously players in a summer pageant or animated cartoon characters.

Unifying it all of course was Jacobsen’s score, at times abstract and astringent, other times pulsing and percussive. That it all came together in this work called “Chalk and Soot,” performed on the intimate Doris Duke stage, is a tribute to the Pillow, which co-commissioned the work; to the creators and artists who refuse to color within the lines; and by audiences who hunger for sights and sounds that are new and fresh, that entertain while not merely entertaining, and that at times can puzzle and even infuriate.

The Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams concludes on Saturday with the annual six hour Bang on a Can Summer Marathon extravaganza. This year’s marathon concert includes special guests Steve Reich, the avatar of minimalism, presenting two new interpretations of melodies by Radiohead, and percussionist Glenn Kotche (of Wilco).  

The first American revival of “Euryanthe,”the 1823 opera by Carl Maria von Weber, in 100 years ends its run this weekend at Bard SummerScape. Bard’s original staging features the festival’s resident American Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of music director Leon Botstein.

Last call to catch the run of Sam Shepard’s modern classic, “Fool for Love,” playing the Nikos Stage at Williamstown Theatre Festival today and tomorrow. First and foremost, the play reminds us that Sam Shepard is one of the greatest living American playwrights, if not one of the greatest playwrights of all time. And “Fool for Love” is one of his best, a kind of post-1960s update of Tennessee Williams rewritten by Samuel Beckett; an American legend played out in an anonymous motel room somewhere in the West. Tony Award-winner Nina Arianda, who shocked Broadway in her stunning performance in “Venus in Furs,” practically steals the show, all lithe and long-limbed and with hidden powers in reserve, standing up to movie star Sam Rockwell. They fight, they make up, and they fight again, and you get the feeling that Arianda could easily get the better of Rockwell if they really went mano a mano. As always at WTF, the set, sound, and overall production is superb. 

I’m Seth Rogovoy, and that’s the Rogovoy Report for this weekend.


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