[49] LIFE AND TIMES: EPISODE 2 (Nature Theater of Oklahoma): Fringe review

Published by The Dance Journal. Republished with kind permission.

Life and Times, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Fringe review

Photo credit: Reinhard Werner, courtesy of Burgtheater Wien

LIFE AND TIMES chronicles a life from childhood to adulthood, in painful, embarrassing, mind numbing detail. Episode two (of five) tracks the lives of four girls and one boy from those magical ages 8 to 14. They all have ’70s style Nike track suits on with midriff peaks when then move around, like a beginner  rhythmic gymnastics class, the movement underlines their awkwardness. This element is nonetheless very admirable because their rudimentary steps are constant and so are the character’s monologues, which are all sung to the synth-rhythm beatbox.

These are equal part hilarious and profoundly banal tales of growing up. We hear about first kisses, Cindy and Cheryl touchy friendship, Bob‘s first crush on another boy,  the cruel cliques, bickering parents, Playboys in the closet, first dances, humiliations at school, boys on the make, shaming parents, petty rivalries, soap opera lust, teen drinking and pretty much every other cliche.

If nothing else it adroitly shows the devolution of conversation plagued with set up words like “like”, um, huh, and other verbal  shorthand.  The text is taken verbatim from a 16-hour audio with Nature Theatre’s sound designer, Kristin Worrall. At various points up to eighteen members of the troupe appear as the background chorus to relieve some of the monotony.

The movement alternates between awkward group scrambles and witty mechanicals a la Brady Bunch choreography with pelvic grinds thrown in. With a large mirrored disco ball, you hope for some liberated steps, but it’s karaoke dance in this episode. But when the static patterns of word and movement start to cloy, the cast‘s strong singing voices come to the rescue.  [The Wilma Theater] September 10-14, 2013, fringearts.com/festival/2013/life-and-times.

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About the author

Lewis Whittington for The Dance Journal

Lewis Whittington’s articles on the performing arts have appeared in several print and online publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Advocate, Dance Magazine, American Theatre Magazine, Huffington Post, Playbill and Stage Directions.