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Sheldon B. Smith and Lisa Wymore

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The gentle, whimsical DryLand is filled with tensions--established through images of drought and water, wide-open spaces and cocoons--that seem to express the contradictory nature of love. First performed in February and now being remounted in slightly revised form, this evening-length dance-theater piece was inspired by a trip out west that choreographer-dancers Sheldon B. Smith and Lisa Wymore took together last year. Video projections of the great outdoors in DryLand contrast with confined, homey spaces onstage--a skeletal "house" with gauzy walls, a campsite with a radio and a kettle on the boil. Domesticity is equivocal: the walls of the house get torn down, and the campsite is an ambiguous source of comfort where the drinks are salty or nonexistent and there's nothing good on the radio. Doing a bit of imaginary traveling as well, Smith and Wymore turn themselves into a cranky old couple in "Chair Dance": Wymore looks so peeved she seems about to leap at Smith's throat; he's oblivious, to the point of falling asleep. And after Smith tells a story around the campfire about a wild horse, he gets on all fours and Wymore sits astride him (giving the production a Beckettian look), which leads to a wild, ritualistic dance. Most of their interactions are ambiguous: humorous and serious, aloof and passionate. A duet performed to a recording of Johnny Cash singing "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" begins as a melodramatic parody of a romantic dance but evolves into a seemingly genuine expression of feeling. Some elements of the show are obscure--particularly five fluttering moth creatures, including one covered with jangling cowbells. But the piece is worth seeing for its imaginative use of music alone, both old (the Carter Family, Bob Nolan's recording of "Cool Water") and new (by Smith himself). More, it's worth seeing for its complex vision of love, which becomes even more layered in the piece's implied context: age-old deserts and lakes. Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, 773-871-0339. Through December 20: Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 PM. $10-$20.

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