The Museum of Contemporary Art’s 2013-2014 Season Finale, Baryshnikov Productions’ “Man in a Case” had no shortage of talent on the stage. Musician/cast member Chris Giarmo’s voice was achingly beautiful. Jeff Larson’s video design, which gave us simultaneous views of the performers and action from multiple angles , was innovative and mesmerizing. The other cast members – Jess Barbagallo, Tymberly Canale and Aaron Mattocks – performed with perfect timing and without flaw.
That said, it’s difficult to imagine that ballet icon Mikhail Baryshnikov did not hold sway over most audience member’s attention throughout the performance. Here was a rock star—in near reach—giving us stories told with liberal spicing from dance, movement, music and set/video/lighting special effects.
Somewhat similar to how Chicago’s Lucky Plush is combining narrative with dance, Baryshnikov Productions working in conjunction with Big Dance Theater re-tells two Chekhov stories – “Man in a Case” and “About Love”. Baryshnikov is the lead character in both stories. He masterfully conveyed a trapped spirit by holding his body tight as the “Man in a Case” story unfolded. “About Love”, a story of unrequited love, has Baryshnikov dancing with Tymberly Canale, with video projections at times powerfully overlaying the current movement with the movement before.
Whether he was falling down stairs, doing an obsessive-compulsive disorder makeup of a bed, or talking about his real-life hunting experiences, Baryshnikov truly commanded the stage.
This performance was above all tight and professional. It seems obvious that the touch of a man who spent hour after hour perfecting moves at the ballet bar was at work.
It’s nice to see that the MCA was able to close out its season with sold-out crowds given Baryshnikov’s star power. In truth, it’s the little-known dance, theater and music performances that the MCA puts on its stage that also make it one of the most exciting performance venues in Chicago. Taylor Mac, Maud Le Pladec’s “Democracy”, “White Rabbit/Red Rabbit”, and “Elephant Room” are just a few of the standouts this past season.
The 2014/2015 season will be announced on June 17, when members will be able to buy season subscription tickets or single tickets will go on sale. Single tickets and season tickets will go on sale to non-members on July 8.
For information on performance programming and exhibits visit the Museum of Contemporary Art website or call 312 280 2660.
Baryshnikov Productions: Man in a Case at MCA Stage, © MCA Chicago, Photos by Nathan Keay