A pair of Australians, Chunky Move's Gideon Obarzanek and choreographer Lucy Guerin, have devised one of the most frustrating, fun and inquisitive dance-theater hybrids to come to town for quite a while. Why is it so interesting and yet so infuriating? Because you only get to see half of the show.
Two-Faced Bastard, part of White Bird's '09 Uncaged Series, plays with what it means to perform (and to watch) by placing a tall curtain of vertical blinds right down the center of the downtown Portland YWCA's gymnasium. The audience sits on bleachers on both sides of the court—watching one show, and only overhearing and catching glimpses of the other through the blinds. On one side, the dark, quirky hour-long work kicks off with a row of people sitting, discussing the nature of performing. On the other side, it's a full-on dance solo—a woman in a yellow baby-doll dress spinning and stretching, all windmill arms and mile-long legs.
"We began with ideas of [simultaneous shows]—of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," explains Obarzanek, who founded Melbourne-based dance company Chunky Move in 1995. "But after a while, it became more about this transformation to a character [that takes place] while you're performing…that second before you step through the curtain to go onstage."
To that end, Two-Faced, which calls on the talents of five Chunky Move company members and two Australian actors, is constantly shifting focus. One audience watches as the dancers change costumes or catch their breath "backstage" while a loopy riff on Kafka's The Trial unspools for viewers on the other side. Often, words and Guerin's luscious dance are set up as enemies, "destroying and undermining" each other and competing for attention, says Obarzanek with a laugh. He was already in town last week overseeing set construction.
Throughout the show those warring words and movements transform the YWCA gym into an interrogation chamber, dance party, slow-motion movie monster fight and a romance between man, woman and dining room set. And then there's the truly weird shit—things that you may or may not ever see, depending on your seat.
White Bird presents
at YWCA, 1111 SW 10th Ave., 245-1600. 8 pm Wednesday-Friday, 2 and 8 pm Saturday-Sunday, April 15-19. $26 adults, $16 students/seniors. Tickets at whitebird.org or Ticketmaster.com.