Dancers in Faye Driscoll’s There is so much mad in me, photo by Yi-Chun Wu
Choreographer Faye Driscoll pushes the physical, emotional, and psychological limits of the nine courageous dancers in There is so much mad in me, a riveting world premiere that opened on Wednesday evening at Dance Theater Workshop. The work explores extreme states of consciousness – everything from religious ecstasy to sex to torture – and through seamless, often unnoticeable transitions reveals the similarities of polar extremes. Driscoll’s program notes explained, “Torture looks like spiritual ritual, spiritual ritual looks like birth, birth sounds like sex, sex looks like wrestling, wrestling looks like rapture, rapture looks like dancing, and dancing looks like everything.” There is so much mad in me was a fast-paced rollercoaster of a show, but with demanding choreography and a string of highly effective scenarios, it remained well-structured and focused.
In an opening duet, Nikki Zialcita shimmied forward as Michael Helland restrained her, but she seemed to grow more playful as he increasingly held her back. Several trios and duets revealed shifting dynamics in relationships and how suddenly torture can look like sex – and vice versa. Elsewhere, the dancers shifted from a rapturous prayer vigil to a raging party, from a gang fight to an orgy. Adaku Utah portrayed a convincing Tyra Banks as the piece mocked the insane level of drama and humiliation in reality television, and later, Jennie MaryTai Liu played a talk-show host who revealed far too much information about her guests. Sadly, the more she exposed the more animated and information-hungry the viewers became. The messages served up in these situations, which seemed rather dark underneath their humorous surface, were balanced with subtler, more poignant portrayals of group pressure, fear, trust issues, and loneliness.
Tony Orrico, Jesse Zaritt, and Lindsay Clark in There is so much mad in me, photo by Yi-Chun Wu
Whether they were entangled on the floor, climbing a wall, charging through the aisles, or pouring out one emotion after another, the cast showed full, fearless commitment to this emotionally and physically challenging piece. In fact, the dancers were so effective that their experiences were equally challenging for the audience. Lindsay Clark’s confusion about which man to trust was the audience’s confusion, and Jacob Slominski’s terrorizing rage pulsed through every person in the theater. At the same time, There is so much mad in me allows – even encourages – the audience to be voyeuristic. We witness and experience more emotions and socio-cultural issues than anyone can handle in a week, let alone a 75-minute performance, and yet media bombards us with this stuff on an ongoing basis. How much information is too much? Where do we draw the line between voyeurism and compassion?
It’s rare and refreshing to experience a work that forces its cast and audience to be so emotionally and psychologically vulnerable. That’s exactly what Driscoll demands in There is so much mad in me. The result is thrilling, agonizing, mind-blowing, and revealing.
There is so much mad in me continues tonight at Dance Theater Workshop. The entire exceptional cast is Lindsay Clark, Lily Gold, Michael Helland, Jennie MaryTai Liu, Tony Orrico, Jacob Slominski, Adaku Utah, Jesse Zaritt, and Nikki Zialcita.
Dancers in There is so much mad in me, photo by Yi-Chun Wu