ONION DANCES (Talia Mason): 2017 Fringe review

Talia Mason by Irina VarinaTalia Mason squats by the fan. She holds in front of it a single page, which flaps in the wind. It’s old, wrinkled, discolored; a collection of similar pages are scattered around like dried leaves. Though she’s let go of all of the others, Mason grips this last one tightly, watching it as tossing and turning.

Talia Mason’s DANCES is a one-woman dance / narrative piece about her Jewish heritage. In it, she uses personal and family stories, recordings of Jewish thinkers and artists, dance, and naturalistic movement to expound on the depth and richness of her own identity. On stage are ladders, clothesline, onions, suitcases, a suit, Mason herself. Mason brings us through these scraps of her own past and other people’s, including the sheafs of paper she’s thrown around the stage.

Though moments are moving, and the collection of stuff certainly makes for interesting connections, Mason’s delivery tends to be unspecific. It is at times hard to drum up interest in this or that story, as almost all of her lines are delivered with in the same distant tone. When she lip synchs along with a recorded Groucho Marx joke we are given no signs about whether this is nostalgic or important to the scene now. When she plays cowboy music and swaggers across the room, making gunshot sounds, it’s unclear how this relates to her family or Jewish heritage. We often don’t know Mason’s connection to these disparate scraps of history, and so walk out unfulfilled.

[Community Education Center, 3500 Lancaster Avenue] September 22-24, 2017. fringearts.com/event/onion-dances.

 

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About the author

Julius Ferraro

Julius Ferraro is a journalist, playwright, performer, and project manager in Philadelphia. He is co-founder of Curate This and editor-in-chief of thINKingDANCE. His recent plays include Parrot Talk, Micromania, and The Death and Painful Dismemberment of Paul W. Auster.