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33 Fainting Spells: Our Little Sunbeam

It feels hip, but is actually more heady than trendy. A slick, hourlong dance-theatre piece, "Our Little Sunbeam" inventively juxtaposes notions of internal and external exploration. Weighty, self-absorbed examinations of the psyche are contrasted with euphoric journeys into outer space. Presented at Dance Theater Workshop by the Seattle-based company 33 Fainting Spells, the engaging work is performed by its creators: the accomplished and appealing dancer-actors Dayna Hanson, Gaelen Hanson, and Linas Phillips.

The production's basic conceit is a performance of the introspective Chekhov play "Ivanov," about an unfulfilled, cheating husband who ultimately commits suicide. The play's "performance," however, is continuously interrupted as actors step out of character and comment on what they are doing theatrically. They let us see inside the creative process. It's not a pretty sight, particularly as the performers mock the self-indulgence of dramatic artists, drawing parallels between their deep internal forays and the way Ivanov gets stuck in his depressive self-analysis.

Yet as questions arise about whether or not an actor can realistically reveal someone's inner life, and about the intrinsic worth of theatrical performance, we are led to wonder whether it is internal or external exploring that leads to greater self-understanding. The "Ivanov" narrative is presented against a glorious backdrop, an image of the earth seen from the lunar surface, while the play's text is interwoven with quotes from astronauts who express feelings of awe and wondrous new realizations as they travel through space.

Chock-full of biting social commentary, within the context of probing major themes of human existence, the work also offers entertaining, thought-provoking parodies of rap music, country-western line dancing, Hollywood's influence on American culture, and, in a delightfully self-referential gesture, a mockery of those "meaningful" Q&A sessions held after experimental dance-theatre performances.

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