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Another Telepathic Thing

Reviewed by Leonard Jacobs

Presented by The Performing Garage Visiting Artist Series and DTW Around Town at The Performing Garage, 33 Wooster St., NYC, Nov. 15-Dec. 19.

The revival of Big Dance Theater's "Another Telepathic Thing" proves that "dance theatre" is no empty concept. In fact, it proves that if wildly diverse source material is treated with a theatrical eye, choreographic nerve, and an unerring sense of narrative, great work can result. True dance theatre pioneers like these groups do this best—they are research friendly, fearless, experimental troupes trained to mix and match material so skillfully as to whip up movement and emotion into moving moments.

Created by Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, "Another Telepathic Thing" is a partly danced, partly sung, partly acted allegory in which an ethereal angel, Satan (Stacy Dawson), materializes in a Hollywood casting studio. Once there, she begins retelling Mark Twain's famous (and famously bitter) story "The Mysterious Stranger," which occurs in 16th century Austria.

The piece then shifts, effortlessly, back and forth across time. When in Austria, we meet Theodore Fisher, the Narrator (Cynthia Hopkins); Father Peter (Paul Lazar); Marget, his niece (Tymberly Canale); and The Astrologer (David Neumann). The fate of the Astrologer lies at the heart of Twain's tale.

When the piece shifts into contemporary mode, the Twain text becomes marvelously blended with text derived from authentic and illicit audiotapes from Hollywood auditions, often channeled through The Auditioner (Molly Hickok). Meanwhile, the jaunty, inspired choreography—at times an homage to classical ballet, at times a commentary on styles of modern movement—serves the added function of providing various kinds of visual perspectives. For example, the back of a walkway becomes the front of a walkway merely by turning it 90 degrees.

The music of John Adams—best known for his opera, "Nixon in China"—fares quite well here, although nothing outdoes Hopkins' unforgettably haunting voice. That, and the appearance of snow descending from above the steeply raked seating, makes "Another Telepathic Thing" a psychically rewarding experience.

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