Sure, soft animal. hideous heart it is a bit strange. A hodgepodge of dance, guitar, and storytelling, but it is completely engaging. And moving.
Robin Neveu Brown and Kevin Alan Brown—new parents who incorporate their incredibly adorable son into the show—together explore what it means to be a parent in two linked, but very different, vignettes broken by an interlude that includes an acoustic lullaby.
Neveu Brown is a master mover, making peculiar shapes with her body in beautiful bursts of motion that are precise, distinct—simultaneously rigid and soft. She says a few simple, but profound and remarkable, things impeccably timed to her movement about the story she wants to tell, but can’t: “It lives in a deeper, darker place than a word can reach.”
She narrates occasionally as she moves through her story. A story of birth. Not hers, but her son’s. How it was painful and amazing all at once. And totally worth it. What’s interesting is that she acknowledges how commonplace pregnancy and childbirth are by pointing out that we don’t discuss it unless it goes wrong. Because it happens so effortlessly so often. But, it’s not all that effortless. A fact she illustrations in a lovely dance—circling and circling and bending her body into a perfect sphere until she drops to the ground exhausted.
“This love is immense, wild, untamed, ancient,” she says, now a mother.
And, then Kevin Alan Brown takes over and it’s almost like a whole new show as he, unlike his wife, finds that his story is better told through words. He’s just as interesting to watch, engaging, and using some movement, but he mostly stands before us as a verbal storyteller. Telling a compelling tale of dealing with his mom —who prized him above all others — as she struggles with mental illness. He’s frustrated. His father is frustrated. He’s often embarrassed by her eccentricities and paranoia, especially as they tax him in public. But he finds the humor in his situation. He’s just the right amount of funny in his darkness.
There is a nice juxtaposition between the two vignettes—motherhood. Listening to Kevin Brown, you have to wonder if his mother, before she was increasingly engulfed by her “condition,”felt the same as Neveu Brown when she held her son for the first time. He gives that impression while relaying how she called him, and only him, one night from jail. Despite that he was far away and could not bail her out or help the cops understand her situation.
soft animal. hideous heart
Produced by Key Red Dance Theatre
Details and tickets
This is a performance piece of love about love with simplistic design—a plain white backdrop and sparsely used sounds, like night noises and old movie dialogue. They supplement an extremely paired down show where the main instruments are the performers’ bodies. But I’ll be honest (and when is it better to be honest than during Fringe?), I vacillated back and forth between a rating of 3 and 4 stars for soft animal. hideous heart. It’s an odd beast that sometimes feels like multiple shows. At one point I questioned the motive for its development. Is it a big kudos from the performers to themselves for creating life, a venue to display their pride in what they have done?
And then, I thought, it doesn’t really matter. It is lovely. Life is lovely. Giving life is lovely. And we are all children—even if we are all not parents—with mothers whose meaning to us is both complicated and joyful. And the fact that they took a leap for us is something always to be celebrated.
soft animal. hideous heart . Choreographed, composed, directed and performed by Robin Neveu Brown and Kevin Alan Brown. Produced by Key Red Dance Theatre . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.