Inspired by the poetry of Leonard Cohen and influenced by Marcel Proust’s musings on memory, Tales from the Book of Longing made its world premiere at the Guthrie Theater this weekend. Stuart Pimsler wrote, directed, and conceived this work with the help of his partner Suzanne Costello. Pimsler and Costello both perform in Tales, along with five members of Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater: Brian Evans, Cade Holmseth, Kari Mosel, Laura Selle Virtucio, and Roxanne Wallace-Patterson.
Against a backdrop of weathered, scribbled-upon, movable pages, the dancers competently perform in 16 tales of longing. Pimsler gives an effective performance as a heartbroken man leafing through pages in his own personal book of longing in “Tale 15 – Poems from the Past.” Another bright spot is Laura Selle Virtucio’s emotionally-nuanced performance of lust in “Tale 3 – They Go Arm in Arms,” throwing herself around to Otis Redding’s energetic, heart-thumping soul music.
|tales from the book of longing, presented through october 18 at the guthrie theater, 818 s. 2nd st., minneapolis. for tickets ($18-$30) and information, see guthrietheater.org.|
Tales also features music by Antony and the Johnsons, Anouar Brahem, and live singing by Brian Evans, who also dances in nearly every scene. The audio fits the visual in each piece—with the exception of Pimsler’s voiceovers, which have poor sound quality and distract from the emotional atmosphere he tries to create.
While the theme of longing is present in every tale, and the idea of memory is scattered throughout the performance, Pimsler never develops the relationship between longing and memory into a commentary, and the tales become unrelated vignettes of emotion. In a performance meant to be both philosophically and viscerally expressive, Pimsler and his dancers only partially succeed.