Greg Langner’s CHAOS: An Evening of the Existential

CHAOS-photo-2

Go, Wo, and Yo in CHAOS

One of my favorite aspects about dance is the blurry line between “dance” and “theater.” I use these terms in quotes because at times we can easily define them as separate entities, but it is shows like CHAOS that disprove our limited definitions. Greg Langner’s original production at the Mosaic Lizard Theater in Alhambra was a delightful work that explored the concrete and the conceptual as it conveyed the solidity of life and the ephemeral nature of living through words and movement.

The cast of four told the story of three siblings named Go, Wo, and Yo, who set out on an adventure to fight the enemy. Their mother, Mada, morphed from an unnamed monster to a macaroni and cheese maker, as we witnessed the children growing up, through puberty and ultimately into old age and death. The loosely linear story allowed for incredible flexibility within the narrative and the transformation of the characters within the hour-long show. Costumed in simple red button-down shirts and grey sweatpants, the character development was achieved almost exclusively through the performers’ physicality that can be most closely linked to clowning. This is where the line between dance and theater became blurred. As the characters aged, they were required to manifest different physical shapes and energies in order to convey each new state of being.

Embodiment is a terms that gets thrown around often in the dance world. It’s hip. It’s cool. But, it is also essential for a show to be successful. We can define embodiment as the physicalization of a concept, emotion or idea. Authentic embodiment requires a nuanced understanding of the body as a medium for conveying meaning and/or states of being. While the performers in CHAOS were not classically trained dancers (or at least were not asked to move classically in this show), they were fully embodied as movers and were able to drive the otherwise elusively existential nature of the play forward with a sense of purpose and connection. Played by Domenic Duran, Jamie Risch and Ryan Perez, the three siblings should be commended for their embodied performance technique. Only a few times did the movement seem forced or awkward, and for such a young cast working on a brand new script, this is no mean accomplishment. Sophie Avedikian played Mada, and while her physicalizations were not quite as rich or varied as the others, she won the hearts of the audience with her sense of grounded strength in her monologue about her children and their suffering.

Langner’s direction is hard to separate from the script itself, as so much of the conceptual structure of the work occurs between the lines. This piece as a whole reminded me of something I might see at a Fringe Festival. In fact, I think this work would do very well at such an independent arts festival. The small performance space and the intimacy of the work requires the audience to take risks and be willing to give up their control of more traditional storytelling devices.

I highly recommend this show to audience members who enjoy the absurd and the profound and who are looking for a new way to experience a blend of “dance” and “storytelling.” I look forward to Langner’s next production and to seeing how the budding actors continue to develop as artists in years to come. CHAOS will be performing a final encore performance February 28th. Learn more at lizardtheater.com.

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