Ascent of the Living Canvas | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Ascent of the Living Canvas


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ASCENT OF THE LIVING CANVAS, New Millennium Theatre Company, at Boxer Rebellion Theater. Nearly 20 years ago photographer Pete Guither hit upon his signature shtick--projecting slides of high-contrast patterns on naked models' flesh and shooting the results, a formally ingenious technique that confounds the traditional relationship between subject and backdrop. Now Guither has swapped his slides for PowerBook-driven digital projection, his static sitters for moving actors, and silence for tunes by Philip Glass and Pink Floyd to produce the all-live, all-nude Ascent of the Living Canvas.

Stoners, Dali fans, sensualists of every stripe, this show's for you. Sober or otherwise, you'll find the visual pleasures of Guither's idiom considerable, the kinetic sculpture consistently engrossing as choreographer Mark Hackman makes the most of the cast's varying backgrounds in movement and dance. To some extent, it's an IMAX adventure--more sizzle than steak--but a droll "behind the scenes" montage firmly establishes it as intentionally artful play, not playing at art. And if once or twice things straddle the pole separating this from exotic dancing--not that I'm complaining--the show generally demonstrates that nudity, as the program notes, "doesn't have to be just about sex or about the movie character getting stabbed in the shower."

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