Not only does Company XIV’s definition-defying dance/theater production of The Judgment of Paris transport, surprise and entertain with the ease of a blown kiss, but it is peopled by brilliant, engaging artists and is cut from a cloth that is entirely new, risky, and delicious.
Reviewed by Lyssa Mandel
Every once in a while, theater presents the fulfilling gift it’s capable of: it transports, surprises and entertains. Not only does Company XIV’s definition-defying dance/theater production of The Judgment of Paris achieve all of these things with the ease of a blown kiss, but it is peopled by brilliant, engaging artists and is cut from a cloth that is entirely new, risky, and delicious.
Housed in the appropriate environs of the shabby-chic Duo Theatre (here resmbling a Moulin Rouge-esque French brothel), Paris cross-breeds the mythical tale of Helen of Troy with gorgeous baroque ballet choreography. The result is a decadent, indulgent delight with the sinful aesthetic of a Toulouse-Lautrec painting.
Prince Paris of Troy (the dapper Seth Numrich, who serves as the Don Juan/carnival barker/MC of the show) must choose to give the Golden Apple of his favor to one of three feminine powers that be. Forgoing Hera and Athena, he chooses Aphrodite, the brassy, voluptuous Gioia Marchese (who is also the Madame of the house). And so the events of the story are triggered. Paris falls in love with Helen (the poised and mysterious Elyssa Doyle), only to discover she’s already married. The besotted prince steals her away from her husband in the night, sparking the Trojan War.
The ensemble of six, all nuanced performers and marvelous dancers, rarely leave the stage. Instead, they morph fluidly from scene to scene, changing costumes and characters as the production requires, creating the theatrical equivalent of a magic show. With the wide-ranging symphony of musical selections, the piece is like a live collage. Leigh Allen uses the lighting to conjure up gorgeous, stark tableaux for the performers and Olivera Gajic’s costumes create the effect of an exquisite, expensive period piece. The whole production is a masterful example of creative collaboration, helmed by choreographer/director Austin McCormick, a ballet scholar who also conceived the piece.
It would have been enough to watch the ladies basking in the can-can music, cooing and jeering at each other and the audience. But the mythical storyline deepens and grounds the production, making it more than just a feathery, if highly enjoyable, romp at an old-fashioned Parisian gentlemen’s club. Between the graceful, quietly intense ballet interpretation of the Trojan War and the myriad suggestive jokes and bosoms on display, high art and lowbrow raunch are corseted together in the span of one bewitching hour.
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.