Three sleek suburban women stay active by running around their neighborhood and spying on their somewhat suspicious neighbor. Choreographer and director Jane Franklin has devised the smart movement-based work, with an eye for our societally aerobic-obsessed and an unerring ear for picking up verbal lines of banality to craft a work marked by both wit and grace.
Franklin explores a theatrical medium beyond dance, using what she terms as “orts.” Orts are apparently scraps of leftover food, but, in this work, overheard phrases are used like found objects, things that come over our radar and are re-purposed as conversation or shaped into a rough plot line.
Uncanny that way, the orts have provided a somewhat shadowy but passible story. The three women friends keep running into each other and sharing bits of gossip. One of them lives next door to a kind of curmudgeon, who seems to be pounding at all hours in his garage. He might be building something or he might be up to something more nefarious. The two have a dispute over a fir tree that is dropping pine needles on his property, and it escalates. Then he becomes a project for the growingly insistent women. Maybe he has facial recognition problems. Maybe he needs to be coaxed out of his shell with friendly offers of recipes and mesquite wood for his barbecue. Their spying reveals he has acquired a girlfriend, shapeless, and therefore also raising suspicions.
Beauty and the Beat
closes July 28, 2018
Details and tickets
The female performers make for a tight ensemble and show prowess both with spoken word, which proceeds as an almost constant stream, and strong movement-dance technique. I’ve rarely seen such high-level technical movement in my years following the Fringe.
Kelly Hogan, Carrie Monger and Amy Scaringe are the three beauties and muses of Franklin’s work. The performers are in sync all the way through the fifty-minute program, now popping into chairs beside audience members, now catapulting themselves out and running or lunging or flinging a leg extension in the air in repeated patterns. Hogan’s strong, youthful physique invigorates every moment. Monger, the veteran in the Franklin’s company, brings razor-sharp instincts to this performance style. Scaringe lends a sophisticated classical line of dance and Hollywood looks to create a most believable suburban maven of the Potomac Mac-Mansion variety.
The three are joined by Ken Hays, Monger’s husband in real life, who not only “dances with wood” beside the ladies, but runs through their lives from time to time then disappears into his “garage” from which he adds percussion effects to the evening with hammers as well as vocal grunts. He models the neighbor you don’t want to live next door to very well.
Perhaps most fascinating to me was unraveling the process of how the movement vocabulary was devised for the work. I imagine each of the performers were asked to physicalize in concrete gestures the words of a line “ort.” It sometimes looked like a cross between deaf sign language and the way a stoned mind suddenly sees everything projected literally. Then these gestures get abstracted, repeated, tempi altered, and suddenly with three women performing them, they become a movement sequence and shaped into a scene.
The “found” music that serves as score for the performance was just as curious and eclectic. A Brahms waltz was abutted against the Smoky Robinson tune, “My Girl.” Then there was the theme from Mr. Rogers’ “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”
So is the “beat” a stand-in for those little tunes and phrases that become our own scores in our heads? And are the beats we repeat the things that keep us zombies in our well-manicured suburbias?
I’m not sure I understood what the show was saying. All I know for sure is I got 20K on my fitbit by running down to the Fringe last night. Won’t you be my neighbor?
Beauty and the Beat Book and Choreography by Jane Franklin. Produced by Ort Productions. With Ken Hays, Kelly Hogan, Carrie Monger, and Amy Scaringe. Reviewed by Susan Galbraith