As dancers mature, they begin to look to transition into disciplines like choreography, writing, teaching, or acting. Valda Setterfield has segued into acting, and her husband, the prolific David Gordon, is an artist for all seasons. BAM presented their new joint venture, "The Chairs," based on Eugene Ionesco's play, at the recent Next Wave Festival. It was edited, choreographed, and directed by Gordon and billed as "A Pick Up Performance Company Production."
To their credit, they both still move with an inherent grace that only a dancer can bring to an acting role. Dressed in costumes of layered chic that looked more like trendy garb than poor-folk fashion, they nimbly maneuvered around many black folding chairs that two attendants, played by Karen Graham and Guillermo Resto, placed on stage for an assembly of invisible guests. Gordon and Setterfield worked desperately hard through a mountain of words, and Gordon breathed heavily in the last few minutes as he read his lines from sheets of paper that he pulled either from the pocketed cargo pants he was wearing or the hands of his two sidekicks. Stacks of paper littered the floor. The poignancy of the couple's hermitic life was aptly illustrated both by the words and the slight but definitive movement Gordon devised.
The opening scenes set the tone. Setterfield waited in a chair, her foot-long knitting in her lap. When Gordon appeared through one of the portable door frames, she was barely aware. These two are so used to their life together that they hardly notice one another. Addressing each other with affection as Cookie and Pussycat, they exchanged dialogue about the circumstances of their isolated life. Beneath it all, the loneliness of old age was starkly drawn. At the end, they were left separated and alone. However, instead of empathy, we were left with apathy and perhaps a bit of eagerness to exit.