In Margaret Atwood’s futuristic novel Oryx and Crake, the cutting-edge of modern science creates the Crakes, genetically modified human beings whose beauty is only matched by the healing power of their purring. In parallel, that same science generates a disease that decimates the human race. Such, it seems, is the world’s future trembling.
In Deviated Theatre’s new production, creature, now playing at Dance Place in northeast DC, the world still trembles. Apocalyptic and beautiful, creature might have a few rough edges here and there, but its beast of a spectacle will most definitely swallow you whole.
Co-created by Deviated’s Co-Artistic Directors, Kimmie Dobbs (choreographer) and Enoch Chan (theatre) this fairytale of a dance-theatre piece premiered at Ailey Citigroup Theatre in New York City in August.
Lead biped Ryan Tumulty plays the leader of the scientific world with enormous agility. Tall and limber, he is surrounded by his army of eight head-down, move-on-straight-lines-only worker-women. Together, they carry on their experiments with blind enthusiasm.
The worker ensemble consists of eight dancers–Catherine David, Katie Johnson, Dana Lokitis, Lauren Marsden, Christy Bartholomew, Terra Bergamy, Abby Magalee, Nicki Mallon, and Amy Merl (one performer was out mending a knee for this performance). Each time they took to the stage they drew fire. With kinesthetic precision and mechanistic glee, they dominated Act 1 with their relentless march to the future, a syncopated, at time spasmodic organism.
Tumulty’s only work interruptions occur when his seeming son, played with a wonderful openness by Gryphon Magnus, kicks his ball into his field of vision. Their interactions occasionally interrupt the dance with moments of true tenderness.
Otherwise, Kimmie Dobbs Chan’s choreography is spellbindingly compelling, transporting us to a world where real human interactions are rare and the force of progress steams on. At times, we watch as these dedicated members of the science community are overcome by horror and convulsed by what appears to be toxic shocks, their bodies convulsing with agony. Such moments reach across the fourth wall and grip the audience tightly.
The center stage aerial hoop provides a powerful dimension to each piece as aerialists David, Johnson, Lokitis, and Marsden perform dynamic acrobatics above the stage. This dimension becomes at times an escape from the terror criss-crossing the stage.
Costume Designer Andy Christ has provided the performers with truly evocative fashion. Eerily and darkly comic in shape–a combination of hazmat suit and World War I triplane pilot headgear–these scientists definitely exude a strange kind of love. With Ebola gripping western Africa at present this viewer couldn’t help but think biological warfare.
Music is provided by French musicians Haunted Days & Witch’s Teat, and it is most definitely an equal partner in this multidimensional piece of theatre. At times driving the action with a myopic vigor, at other times becoming hauntingly tender with solo voice, the music edits perform outright, right next to the dancers, as we listen to bits of social commentary and realize we are responsible for the panic gripping our world.
Act II of creature takes its audience to a whole new world, essentialized and bifurcated, with new equally connotative choreography and fashion, with quadrupeds angularly clucking, and a creature that will tingle your spine.
Dance with narrative, creature offers its audience a chance to imagine its world and, given the current state of our world, isn’t any opportunity to imagine possibilities worth the trip. In Dance Place‘s newly renovated and sleek space, in its newly invigorated and inviting neighborhood, such a re-imagining awaits.
Running Time: Approximately 75 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
creature has one more performance tonight, Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 7 PM Deviated Theatre performing at Dance Place – 3225 8th Street NE, Washington DC. For tickets and info click here.