Arts & Culture » Dance Critic's Choice

The Seldoms

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Li'l Roy is a nine-year-old doofus who goes to the circus and never quite makes it home in the Seldoms' new Li'l Roy and the Weird Sisters, a comic nightmare whose characters also include three sideshow workers with towering beehive hairdos (Cotton Candy, Doily, and Bingo) and three heroines, all danced by choreographer Carrie Hanson: bombshell Brunella, mermaid Aquamarina, and "bawdy gladiator" Ruby, who travels via skateboard. Li'l Roy himself is played by performance artist Doug Stapleton, whose pageboy wig, high-water pants, and Converse sneakers make him look like a young, uncool Elvis. Complete with hand-painted circus banners and projected animations of armless, legless dolls, the work is one of three on a program that inaugurates the new performance space at Architectural Artifacts, a longtime retail outlet for old building fragments and unusual furnishings. Newly expanded, the store now includes an atrium surrounded by balconies and catwalks--the audience's vantage points for most of the show. An older work, Ode, is performed in an outdoor court that's home to some really large items like 15-foot church spires and 22-foot limestone columns from the old Mercantile Exchange building. Ode, a trio that looks sculptural, is perfectly at home amid the artifacts, and the night sky enhances its haunted air. Also being shown is last spring's site-specific work for Preston Bradley Hall at the Chicago Cultural Center, reconfigured for this space and retitled The Reading Room. An elegant piece totally unlike the cartoonish Li'l Roy, it seems brand-new in this context, not least because of the audience's unusual perspective: peering down on the dancers from two floors up makes them seem all the more distant and vulnerable. Architectural Artifacts, 4325 N. Ravenswood, 312-328-0303. Through September 11: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $10-$15. Note: A gala benefit precedes and follows the Saturday performance; $50 ($30 for artists) includes the performance and party.

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