According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Judgment of Paris

Austin McCormick has labeled The Judgment of Paris a "dramatic entertainment." It is an accurate description for this theatrical dance adaptation, for it shows the uglier side of Helen's beauty--the price Aphrodite makes men and women pay--in a heel-kicking way.

Photo/Steven Schreiber

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Three women dance into the decaying theater, vying for a golden apple. The first, Hera (Laura Careless), performs a short ballet, hoping to win the approval of Paris (Seth Numrich). The second, Athena (Yeva Glover), bursts into a short flapping jazz number, never mind the shimmery armor. But it is Aphrodite (Gioia Marchese), with her "give the audience what it wants" fan burlesque who wins the day. This, The Judgement of Paris, leads--through Austin McCormick's gracefully choreographed violence--to the rape of Helen (Elyssa Dole), that Everywoman, giving truth to the phrase "ravishing beauty."

McCormick's piece could not have found a better place than the Duo Theater, the sort of decayed Moulin Rouge-type place, gilded proscenium and all, that signifies the cost of maintaining beauty. The free Ferrero Rocher on every chair (an expensive type of cheap chocolate) and Olivera Gajic's slightly frayed can-can costumes are further extensions of that thought; Marchese's interpretation of Aphrodite as the Russian mistress of a brothel solidifies it. While these consistencies hold things together, McCormick (and his Company XIV ensemble) are free to giddily romp through their spin on Paris's story. And though they pull from several sources (including, rather appropriately, Chuck Mee's Agamemmnon 2.0), it's their own text, which creates the sort of coherent throughline that experimental works benefit from.

This doesn't mean that some of the images aren't confusing. For instance, it's unclear what Davon Rainey, cross-dressing as one of the frolicking "cupids" of the play, represents (though not to his discredit; his dancing is superb). However, given the clear theme, we can draw our own conclusions, as we do when ruffling skirts are made to seem like waves, or a slow sensual dance in the smoky dark can resemble a dance of fallen warriors, if the music and monologue give it such a context. Of course, the play is strongest when everything merges: when a single spotlight remains fixed on a befuddled Helen and the other dancers cruelly move her to the choreography, the result is heartbreaking.

McCormick has labeled The Judgment of Paris as "a dramatic entertainment." Thankfully, he has not tarnished the beauty of either one.

The Judgment of Paris (1hr, no intermission)
The Duo Theater (62 East 4th Street)
Tickets (212-868-4444): $35.00
Performances (through 1/31): Thurs. - Sat. @ 8 | Sun. @ 2

No comments: