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Body House - A Jazz Tricycle

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BODY HOUSE--A JAZZ TRICYCLE, TeenStreet. In his program note, director Ron Bieganski explains that TeenStreet's goal in creating Body House was to write from "inside music," a phrase borrowed from Ralph Ellison. The music the ensemble chose was free jazz, and the results of their immersion are unsurprising: a live jazz combo, faux-50s jive hipness, and a disjointed text full of poetic dissonance. The teenage performers recite original surrealist poetry ("There's a pool at the edge of the sun with a diving board and a juice bar," "The stillness measured 8.2 on the Richter scale"), play a funky version of Follow the Leader, scream and jump, and generally throw all inhibitions to the wind. As an exercise in creative self-expression, the piece is an undeniable success.

But as theater it's a hopeless muddle, so visually, acoustically, and textually cluttered that little of it has any real impact. Bieganski's performers present, then endlessly reiterate their poetic metaphors rather than develop them; in this 90-minute piece, minute 3 is indistinguishable from minute 85. Furthermore, Bieganski pushes the actors to such stylistic extremes that there's hardly an honest moment. Self-expression is a wonderful thing. But teenagers with this much interest in the performing arts would do better to study how form and structure--not to mention intelligible diction--can make creativity coherent.

--Justin Hayford

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