Minnesota Fringe Festival—”Indignorance”

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There is a woman sitting on the floor in the space. She is totally focused on her laptop, her smartphone, and apparently, or possibly, some other gizmos. There is a lot of wiring. The Fringe house manager delivers the usual speech, and the show begins.

Two couples try to communicate with each other. Both have more than one significant duet. There is live music delivered by a person, operating a computerized digital sound mechanism, and a live mic into which he sings or speaks. Sometimes the only light onstage is the glow of laptop screens. This is totally, utterly and completely about what it means to be newly out of college in a digital age looking for a way to fit in with somebody and with whoever.

The woman on the floor with the devices is still sitting there.

The opening duet, with Brian Gerber and choreographer Stephanie Narlock is a delicious exercise in subtle but specific rhythms. I loved it. The relationship to the pulse, rhythms, melody line, and tone of the music is specific and beautifully chosen. This use of time, rhythm and musical intelligence is almost a lost art. So many dance-makers today treat music like wallpaper. They dump it behind their work and then forget about it. By contrast, this opening duet is good not just because it is musically intelligent, but because it is nuanced enough so that you don’t notice unless you looking for it.

Stephanie and Bryan’s next two duets are even better.

This is a multi-disciplinary piece. The sound score is created and performed by Eric Mayson, seated in the front row with a mountain of wires and gadgetry. There is text and flat-out acting, done especially well by Jared Oxborough and Jessica Ehlert.

The woman on the floor with the devices is still there.

The dance duet couple of Bryan Gerber and Stephanie Narlock has three pieces, the first of which I mentioned above. They are utterly wonderful. This is a performing duet team made in heaven. One is formal and friendly, almost folksy. One is a wrassling grope on the floor that is always in contact but never intimate. One is a belligerent confrontation, reminiscent of Graeco-Roman wrestling.

The woman on the floor with the devices is still there.

I talked with Stephanie briefly just after the show and she disclosed that one of her goals was to demonstrate that she was not a one-trick pony, that she could put widely varying material on people. Success.

Frankly, I have never before seen such a vivid and intelligent evocation and examination of what it means to be 24 and plugged in. I’m 66, so what the hell do I know about what happened this afternoon or yesterday evening? Significantly, there is a point in the show where we see them all trailing three-prong plug-in wire. They are all attached –plugged in – at the navel. They address this circumstance.

A few years back I bought lunch for a half dozen young dance-makers working in multi-discipline approaches. I asked if they felt they were “pushing the envelope.” They were politely and gently bewildered. One eventually said, “We’re not pushing any envelope at all. We grew up bombarded with sound and images from all directions. We’re just making our work in terms of the world we have seen.”

This show doesn’t just take for granted and then utilize the multiple bombardment. It illustrates it, and it raises question and observations about it. It’s a good and provocative show.

By the way, the woman on the floor eventually joins the action.

HIGHLY recomended. It’s at the Arena Theater at Rarig.