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October 5th, 2011 BEN WATERHOUSE | Performance
 

Zugzwang (Imago Theatre)

Jerry Mouawad’s madcap caper.

perf.box.zugzwang_3748ALL IN: Gregg Bielemeier (right) bets big. - IMAGE: Sumi Wu
The thing to keep in mind, as you sit down to see a show at Imago Theatre, is that co-directors Jerry Mouawad and Carol Triffle are basically fearless. Not content to rest on their animal-masked laurels, they are constantly pushing beyond the styles in which they feel comfortable. Six years ago, Triffle started writing plays. Four years ago, Mouawad started making dances. Sometimes their experiments are successful, and sometimes they are not, but they always make for interesting post-show conversation.

Mouawad’s latest hourlong experiment in the series of narrative movement pieces he calls “theater without words” takes as its inspiration the classic heist flick. It begins with a gambler (performed with Gene Hackman-ish flair by dancer Gregg Bielemeier) losing piles of cash in a tragic poker match, much to the distress of his wife. 

To make up for his losses, he and his black-clad crew set out to steal some unspecified treasure, sneaking along corridors, skulking in elevators, dodging mysterious pools of radioactivity, blowing a safe and negotiating an Entrapment-style laser field. 

The story doesn’t make a lot of sense, for reasons revealed in a very clever twist that I don’t care to reveal, but the company’s typically creative way with lights, music and sound lends a strong impression of place to the adventure.

Bielemeier is, as always, a blast to watch. He stands rail straight, chin up, and his limbs seem to sneak around of their own accord, as if his torso were a passive passenger. But Mouawad hasn’t created enough variety of movement to hold audience attention through the middle section of the show. For a good 15 minutes, the action seems repetitive. Maybe this is part of the project, making hay out of monotony. I don’t know. I enjoyed Zugzwang, but found it to be less engaging (if more comprehensible) than Mouawad’s last movement experiment, Stage Left Lost. Nonetheless, it’s a treat to watch a director performing the sort of public experiment that we for the most part, thanks to budgetary constraints, never get to see.


SEE IT: Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave., 231-3959. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays through Oct. 22. $10-$16. 

 
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