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"Travels, Tours and One-Night Stands" -- Kim Ima, Chris Wild and Onnie Johnson.
Kim Ima and Onni Johnson: "Travels, Tours and One-Night Stands"
La MaMa E.T.C. (First Floor Theater), 74A East Fourth Street, East Village
Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 and 8 p.m., $15/tdf
Tickets: (212) 475-7710 or www.lamama.org
Reviewed by Jack Anderson April 3, 2006
Journeying became a joy in "Travels, Tours and One-Night Stands." What the production at La MaMa celebrated was wanderlust itself, the excitement of taking off just for the adventure of experiencing the unfamiliar.
This dance-theater piece was conceived by Kim Ima, who directed and choreographed it, and Onni Johnson. They performed it with a cast that also included Duane Boutte and Chris Wild. All of them developed the work's materials along with Charlotte Brathwaite and Priscilla Smith.
L-R: Onnie johnson, Kim Ima, Duane Boutte, and Chris Wild.
Two large boxes that could be joined together to form an even larger one served as the voyagers' luggage and also symbolized other objects: for instance, in one charming scene, seats in a cramped railway compartment. The travelers responded perplexedly to recorded announcements in a language nobody understood. Wild searched panic-stricken for a precious document he thought he had lost. Everyone consulted maps, ate snacks, and occasionally stared from an imaginary window at passing geographical marvels. And Wild played an accordion to the annoyance of some of his companions. Such incidents would be familiar to anyone who has ever journeyed for long across a foreign land.
Later, performers asked one another questions about feeling out of place, listened to instructions on how to use cutlery, paraded like street entertainers, set up a tent, pondered a lecture about seismic shifts, pulled a clothesline strung with exotic apparel across the stage and, mixing climates and continents, sat beneath a palm tree amidst falling snow.
A press release stated that the production was based on both choreographed scenarios and improvised scenes. Yet everything moved so smoothly that it was difficult to guess what was already prepared and what was created afresh.
However, although the work has a sound score by Steffano Zazzera, at every performance guest musicians representing several world traditions will also participate. On April 1, the guests were Elizabeth Swados, who provided vocals, and Bill Ruyle, on drums and hammered dulcimer. Swados devised a delightful sequence in which, like a choral director, she assigned place names to people in various rows of the audience and then, giving gestural instructions for volume and tempo, asked them to recite them. (My name was "Appalachia.") The excited chorus of locales that erupted suggested how wide and wonderful the world can be, especially when explored along with this production's amiable travelers.
The work also made one wonder how, anywhere in the world, old ways can be preserved while, at the same time, the area's residents become part of the international modern community, so that the result is neither stultifying quaintness nor soulless standardization. That might well be a theme for this cast's next production.
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