Reviewed by Jerry Kraft
They're trying to do something very interesting and very difficult at the Little Red Studio. They're trying to build a gallery and performance space that is also a community of artists committed to creating an environment of style, variety, sensuality and interactivity. More than a hundred performers and allied support persons are producing a series of performances, some specifically themed and others a potpourri of music, dance, spoken word, short dramatic sketches and aerial specialty acts. This is something of a blend of an artist's salon and the early Twentieth-Century French cabaret. It's also a fascinating, idiosyncratic and rewarding entertainment, more innovative than traditional plays, well-performed and tastefully provocative.
"An Intimate Spectacle" is rather different than other performance events at LRS in that it is performed in a single playing space, with the audience seated around the area and the acts presented sequentially in a variety show format. These pieces have all been previously performed and this show constitutes a "best of" sort of review. Before the performance an excellent pianist played Chopin in the "living room" area and there were simple snacks and a wine bar available.
The performance began with a comic piece called "Tarzan and Monkey", performed by David Roman and Nan Draper. Using suspended drapes and a trapeze, it was a slight but amusing sketch defining a humorous cross-species jungle relationship through movement and gesture.
That was followed by poetry by Eileen Fix, a passionate and intense young woman who brings us close to the erotic vitality struggling for expression beneath the physical constraints of her MS. Her writing is strong and vivid, and her presentation had enormous presence.
The team of Heather and Shaina Ward performed several first-rate jazz interpretations of Golden Age Broadway standards. With Shaina accompanying on standup Bass, Heather Ward made such familiar fare as "On the Street Where You Live" feel fresh and sexy and intimate. She has a small voice, but with beautiful detail, elegant tone and smart musicianship.
Equally well-crafted was the mime exercise by Kerry Christianson, who also directed the whole evening. Using a blank white mask, she interpreted a variety of emotions called out by three assistants sitting in front of her. The discipline and physical emotionality of her gestures were fascinating, impressive and convincing.
Alex Black delivered a monologue about trying to hook-up with a woman in a bar who's engaged with a TV, and it was rough and sexy and funny. A little person called Mr. Big did a very entertaining piece about his first time with another entertaining piece. Beverly Rose did an aerial performance in male drag in an attempt to impress an indifferent Kirsten Lauzon.
As always in this sort of show, some pieces worked better than others. A piece called "Because of" tried to generate a sort of nostalgic romanticism around a man's former lovers, but the text was too thin and the action too diffuse to disguise its essential sentimentality, and his demise in the end was simply pandering. Conversely, an unlikely dance called "The Lesson" performed by Donn Pedro and Kerry Christianson melded martial arts combat and eroticism in a lyrical and edgy way that was entirely convincing.
The final sketch of the evening, a dialogue between two young people who watch and fantasize about each other from their opposing bedroom windows, was cute and innocently sexy. The hopelessly priapic young boy played by Ian Stone was seduced and engulfed by the more assured Shaina Ward Siegel, and the whole tale was an exercise in verbal stimulation, a linguistic petting, titillating and sweet.
I'd like to come back to the Little Red Studio on one of their themed evenings in order to get a better sense of their usual format, but from what I saw in "An Intimate Spectacle" I feel confident that their ambition and execution will be satisfyingly accomplished. This is a performance experience that combines disciplined artistry with sensuous liberality, and it's an excellent and distinctive experience.