Reviewed by Lisa Jo Sagolla
Self-presented at The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, 90 Orchard St., NYC, Nov. 28-Dec. 17.
With his latest creation, the marvelous hour-long dance-drama "Neither," presented at The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, choreographer Doug Varone (who also wrote and directed the work) has pit his talents, successfully, against a set of formidable theatrical challenges.
By setting his site-specific piece within the tiny apartments and narrow hallways of the aged and unrestored tenement building, Varone, first off, limits his audience—to only 20 people, and to those willing to stand throughout the show. (No leaning is allowed, as we are warned ahead of time, to respect the decaying state of the crumbling walls.)
Secondly, Varone restricts his spatial palette by making brief choreographic playlets that must nestle into wee rooms where the floor space is made even smaller by the presence of unrehearsed spectators. We are constantly on the go, following the dancers from one room to another, and making personal choices about where and how to position ourselves. Varone embraces the physical risks and designs fast-moving, multi-directional, unpredictably-timed, high-energy ensemble choreography full of lifts and spins. Throughout the 60 intense minutes of spirited dancing (that combines with text to explore notions of memory and love), there is not a single mishap. One is awed by the extraordinary kinesthetic awareness demonstrated by Varone's valiant dancers.
And, as if all of those physical obstacles aren't enough, Varone ushers his free-to-roam audience into a structure so chock full of historical intrigue that the viewer's attention is constantly torn between the present performance, of which we are a part, and our imagination's journey back to the tenement's original inhabitants and the dreams of those courageous immigrants, of which we are also a part.
One is exceptionally grateful for Varone's moxie and his making of "Neither," a singular event that overflows with piquancy.