Presented by the Joyce Theater Foundation at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Ave., NYC, Oct. 5-10.
When she tackles satire, Jane Comfort is hard to beat, as in "Three Bagatelles for the Righteous (Excerpt: Election Update 2004)," previously presented in 1996 but seen this time around with different participants—a Kerry-Bush face-off. Comfort points her finger at how really silly these presidential campaigns can become when the handlers are over the top with priming. Having found Joseph Ritsch (a Kerry look-alike) and David Neumann (a Bush sort of look-alike) to lip-sync to the actual sound bites of the two bickering candidates, Comfort made them look as foolish as possible. It was laugh-out-loud theatre, unfortunately too right on target.
When she traveled into mythology, as she did in the premiere of "Persephone," things got a little muddled. This heavy-duty material is better left in the hands of a Martha Graham disciple. Though Comfort's rendition was less than compelling, the richly textured musical score by Tigger Benford, with the haunting sound of the shakuhachi flute played by James Schlefer, carried the piece, and the neon wall hangings that made Hades look like a fabulous downtown dance club surrounded the choreography with a lavish glow. Aleta Hayes' frightening moans as the wailing Demeter (Persephone's mother) seemed an all-too-real reflection on the enormity of loss, especially meaningful as we too often witness it today. It was not pretty, but her bereavement was deeply felt.
Cynthia Bueschel Svigals was a tentative Persephone, more like a high school prom queen than a woman who made such a dastardly choice, and Olase Freeman gave little presence to his pivotal role as Hades. That she would run from the comfort of the dancers peacefully strolling in a pristine setting and the protective arms of her adoring mother to this Hades was difficult to reconcile.
"Underground River," previously reviewed, brings forth mystical reflections on reaching the locked-in thoughts of a comatose patient—a sad, poignant, and touching work. Through the manipulations of a very small hand puppet ingeniously constructed by visual designer Basil Twist, the dancers pull and turn the strings to give life to this inanimate object—or try.