"The Art of Falling", Hubbard Street + The Second City Review- An amazing collaboration between Second City and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Hubbard Street+ The Second City's “The Art Of Falling”, a  superb collaborative effort, is currently being presented at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, through June 19th. The show is unlike anything else you are likely to see in this or any season: it’s a visual and emotional extravaganza of love stories with moral imperatives, intellectual and physical comedy and wonderful dance set to great music. Directed by Billy Bungeroth, with the cast of both companies adorned by the costumes of the incomparable Branimira Ivanova, the program was choreographed by Hubbard Street company members Alejandro Cerrudo, Lucas Crandall, Jonathan Fredrickson, Terence Marling and Robyn Mineko Williams. The show, brought back by popular demand after it's premiere in 2014, was written by Tim Mason with Carisa Barreca, Kate James, T.J.Jagodowski, Chris Redd and the casts of Second City.  The result is a heart-warming and near seamless meld of two virtuoso yet entirely distinct forms of talent, based on the art of falling- falling for somebody, falling from the sky, falling in love, falling out of the safe and sane and into the zany messiness of life- and not falling on your face when leaping off the stage- these dancers leapt and landed perfectly at the end of one scene.

Joey Bland, left, and John-Michael Lyles in Hubbard Street + The Second City's "The Art of Falling"

There are three sets of lovers in this story. The most important duo to the narrative is the developing relationship between a dancer (played by the sunny and svelte John-Michael Lyles) and a stiff comedian (the staunchly unimaginative Joey Bland) who “can’t dance”. Indeed, as Bland puts it, “I can’t date a dancer. I eat”. The second non-duet is the apparently unrequited love of a temporary- and befuddled- office worker (the charmingly clueless Carisa Barreca) for a studdly coworker (Jesse Bechard). The third unlikely coupling – on an airplane which in one scene resoundingly crashes- is between a motormouth revenge-driven married woman (Christina Anthony) and a disenchanted corporate comic (Tim Mason). The charachteristically Second-City-esque fast-paced dialogue and cast commentary about genital herpes on the plane when the last two met had the audience howling.

Hubbard Street Dancers in "The Art of Falling", from left: Kellie Epperheimer, Alicia Delgadillo, Kevin J. Shannon, Adrienne Lipson, Jaqueline Burnett and Ana Lopez

The bits about the relationships drive the theme, amid repartee and skits of surpassing brilliance, while the dancers literally carry each other and the script. The interplay between Lyles and Bland is grist for “The Party”, a terrific ensemble dance where Lyles, incidentally singing like an angel, secures the first date. Their growing connection also fuels “Thanksgiving”, a  family holiday encounter in which Bland fails to admit he loves Lyles, who has declared himself in front of all. Similarly, “Typewriter” is a hugely imaginative dance wherein 6 dancers perform as a clacking human Smith-Corona, while “White Office Swan”, a nod to “Swan Lake”, showcases 6 dancers reveling on office chairs. Never to be forgotten by this reviewer was the grace and wit of “Bicycle Ride”, another wildly innovative ensemble dance during which one performer rides another as though he were an exercise bike!

Carisa Barreca, far left, in Hubbard Street + The Second City's "The Art of Falling" with Hubbard Street Dancers, from left: Jesse Bechard, Emilie Leriche, Michael Gross, Alice Klock, and Kevin J. Shannon

In fact, the ability of the Hubbard Street dancers to embrace and enhance the comical lines- for example, inventively transforming themselves to the monologue  while stretched on the floor during Tawny Newsome’s hilarious improvised sketch with the audience- is thrilling and impressive. So is the ability of the Second City actors/comedians to adjust their timing to the dancers. The narration and wordplay as, for instance, the dancers become a 4-person pop machine, is priceless. And, of course, the seemingly throw-away lines are side-splitting, such as  the furiously determined to cuckold  her faithless husband Christina Anthony announcing  “I’ve cheated before”, with insouciant nonchalance. Throughout the production  there were, as usual for Second City, recurring minor themes, such as the “Black Jesus/Normal Jesus” distinction, and  references to the KGB, which help to tie together the glorious dance with the comedic theme.

 

John-Michael Lyles in Hubbard Street+ The Second City's "The Art of Falling"

The mission of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is to change lives through dance;  The Second City is devoted to improvisational comedy, and laughter is transformative. This show delivers an interchange and interplay of the best of both, encouraging us to laugh, dance, live, love, and not to be afraid to get down!

Hubbard Street Dancers Jacqueline Burnett, left, and Jesse Bechard in "The Art of Falling"

For tickets to this great show, and other great shows, go to the Hubbard Street website  and the Second City website 

 

All photos courtesy of Todd Rosenberg 

 

 

 

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