"Lovestories" at the Irving Theater 

Susurrus Performance Group at The Irving Theater, January 21-24

Directed by Michael Burke

If Michael Burke had presented only his last 15-minute story, this would be a five-star review. "Epthis," developed when Burke was a Butler University theater student, is now my personal Rosetta stone for all those visually bruising, verbally numbing Samuel Beckett monologues I have struggled to understand. With help from the program's notes, "Epthis" (neither bruising nor numbing) asks us to consider how large a person's absence can loom for the one left behind, and what would one do, if absence was all one ever knew? Actress Melody Landis stands alone on a table, before a mirror, and in a sea of empty wine bottles. Agitated, half-uttered phrases echo with a mix of regret, self-hate, amusement, and longing that reminds us, just subtly enough, that each of us is alone, all the time. By comparison, Burke's dance called "Don't" feels incomplete. The way Melissa Fenton and David Deye tug at and ride each other succeeds in suggesting desperation for ownership rather than love, but most of the choreography lacks originality and authenticity. The show's longest piece at about 30 minutes, "The Unfortunate Man" is a circus fable. The puppet-like Matthew Van Oss plays a sideshow "freak," who finds love with the show's star dancer, Georgeanna Smith. Like the story and the dialogue, her dance and delivery seem intentionally flat and I don't understand the intention. However, it's not the first time I needed a translator.

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