Looking out the glass doorway and wide front windows of Frieda’s Café, I spotted dancers performing unison phrases around the door-frames of the historic buildings across Walnut Street as a U.S. Park Service Ranger calmly checked the locks to those same old buildings. Bicyclists scooted by on the street, dog-walkers strolled with their pups (who were more curious than their owners about the performative doings around them), and cars struggled to park and discharge their harried passengers while performers, singly and in groups, ran or danced through my view.
Leah Stein’s wonderful troupe—David Konyk, Andrew Mars, Megan Wilson Stern, and Michele Tantoco—climbed up the door jambs, hung from the lintel, contact-improv-ed with other performers, sang, crawled, scooched, and hovered through the 50-minute show. Their grounded, focused performances in words, song, and movement created the continuity that held this partly improvised performance together. Stein’s four company members were joined by a crew of eight community performers of various ages and movement backgrounds, an appropriate choice in a café “whose goal is to (re)connect people across generations.” Some of these folks were more comfortable performing than others—those whose shy, excited smiles and moments of awkward pause revealed the novelty of their situation—but the rich layering of performance capacity matched the layers of movement space that Stein’s PORTAL attended to.