Dry Cleaning

Something struck me as I was leaving the 24th Street Theater, euphoric over having just seen a truly remarkable piece of theater; why was it called Dry Cleaning?  The performance art piece is based on the Orpheus and Eurydice legend, so I combed through different versions of the myth looking for analogies to stain lifting, stain-removal, etc.  I couldn't find anything so I dragged myself to the downtown space in the pouring rain.

Dry Cleaning

Don't let descriptions like "performance art","movement theater,"  "deconstructed," the threat of audience participation, or audience members muttering about "agitprop" dissuade you from seeing this remarkable production.   Even if you've never heard of Orpheus and Eurydice there's plenty to keep your interest.  The play works on so many levels that whatever thread you follow will keep you fully entertained. 

First there are the cool props.  The admission tickets seemed to be negatives of a large pressing machine but, then again, maybe they are just abstracts.  Very pretty, too bad you don't get to keep them.   The programs are manila dossiers and include a scene grid so that one can follow the story.  The audience also gets tags printed with lines from the play, which serve to lift certain lines from the enigmatic, dense, poetry of text.

If you don't know the story, here is a visually stunning cat and mouse, cloak and dagger road movie/play puzzle with almost flawless production values.  A multimedia extravaganza beautifully executed by cinematographer Michael Glover and video designer Peter Flaherty and masterminded by director Jeff Webster.  The set is transformed by the images, both stationary and in motion, into various locations.  One scene takes this device to its furthest extent by spinning the images representing a house like a slot machine.  Although there are only two performers, their impact is multiplied by the projections - at times the actors work with the images, a virtuosic achievement in timing; at times the images are extras to fill out a scene, and at time the images are entire shorts that move the story along.

For the record - Orpheus was an amazing musician who could get his way in just about everything with his music.  He falls in love and marries the beautiful Eurydice, but shortly after a blissful honeymoon, she dies.  Heartbroken, he descends to the Netherworld and, with his music, convinces Persephone and Hades to let Eurydice return to life.  The only caveat is that he cannot look back at her until they are both safely on terra firma.  Orpheus agrees and they are almost to the surface when he is suddenly seized by doubt that Eurydice is actually behind him and turns to check and loses her forever.

The actors/creators Tina Kronis and Richard Alger are stellar - smart, specific, and sad.  And funny.  By eliminating facial expressions and vocal affect and, to a large extent, context, the emotions and meaning sink in and radiate from everywhere else, especially through the movement.  The choreography by Kronis is pedestrian and sublime.

There are actual dances but there is also movement - small, precise, repetitive and incredibly evocative.  Executed at times in tandem, at times solo, Kronis and Alger have an extrasensory communication that is purely physical and wonderful to watch.

Dry Cleaning is at the 24th Street Theater through the end of January.   Oh, and I found out what "dry cleaning" means.  It's spy terminology for actions taken to determine if one is under surveillance, like a u-turn to see if you're being followed.  Make of that tidbit what you will.

If you would like to more information or to make a reservation for th 24th St. Theater you may call 213.745.6516 or visit thier website at: www.24thstreet.org




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