Jenna Simon photos by
By R. Pikser
The TuTu Trilogy is composed of three
vignettes, each of which takes place in a backstage situation; two are in a
rented rehearsal studio, one backstage after a performance. Author Richard
Curtis is not so much exploring his situations as he is commenting on the
differences between those who have given themselves to the discipline and the
world of dance and those who are spectators, “civilians” in his words. Many of
the jokes are in jokes are about the sexuality, or at least the perceived level
of gayness of the male performers.
the first piece, a female dancer begs her gay partner to put on an exaggerated
show of gayness to prove to her “civilian” fiancé that he has nothing to fear.
The fiancé, too jealous, or too limited in his outlook on life, breaks off the
engagement. This reviewer found it hard to credit the premise. In this day
and age, who doesn’t know more than we want to about the sexuality of most male
dancers? There was, however, a very funny and well-staged slow motion fight.
second vignette also deals with jealousy, this time of an older dancer towards
a younger man who is to partner his wife while the older man recovers from an
injury. Presumably the couple resolves their relationship difficulties.
Again, there is a lot of lecturing going on for a rehearsal situation.
the third vignette, a stage-door Johnny sneaks into a star’s dressing room
after a performance, terrifying the object of his affections until she takes
hold of the situation and becomes a sort of dominatrix, which seems to suit
Jenna Simon, who appeared in all three pieces, was the most successful in the
last one, when the script provided her with a strong throughline of fear
coupled with anger, and then domination. The moment at which she changes from
terrified to terrifier could have been better demarcated.
Barba as the fiancé in “Civilian” and as the abject admirer in “Exposed” was
not afraid to clown and director Paul Navarra encouraged this ability to the
benefit of the show. It was not so much what Mr. Barba did, but how he allowed
the situations to touch him that made us all laugh. Pierre Guillbault’s best
moments were in the slow motion fight with Mr. Barba, which he executed with
verve and humor. For the rest, his parts did not offer him much scope, though
he might have capitalized more on making life miserable for the injured older
dancer by a few looks or a few gestures of seduction, mentioned in the script.
Southern’s Rory, the disabled older dancer, was properly testy, but not
nuanced. Nor did we see the familiarity and edginess of two married people in
the way he and Ms. Simon related to one another, though the script mentioned
their relationship over and over; indeed that was the upshot of the scene.
the first two scenes, though the dancers are supposed to be rehearsing, no one
seems at all perturbed by the time spent talking rather than working. Had this
complication, or any of the complications been given some weight, the scenes
would have had more tension and would have been more interesting, because
something would have been at stake. The stretches and dance steps that were
not part of actual choreography seemed extraneous, rather than a preparation
for work or a signal that the dancers should be getting back to work. Dancers
are nothing if not disciplined, and this we did not see.
Miro Magloire found some interesting movements for his dancers, especially in
the tango. However, since the actors were primarily actors, not dancers, more
time spent on quality of movement, and less time on steps and lifts, which are
harder to execute, might have been beneficial.
Curtis, for all his fascination with the world of dancers, imbues that world
with a mystique that is external. Dance is not voyeurism. It is not a club.
It seems exclusive because it demands everything and few are willing to give
that much of themselves. Margot Fonteyn once referred to ballet as a blood
sport. Though the god of dance is reputed to be Terpsichore, Bacchus, god of
divine madness, might be a better deity for the dance we know. Precisely because
dance demands so much, because it demands our submission to its discipline, on
occasion, if we are lucky, we can attain a moment or two of transcendence.
That is what we all work towards.
Trilogy: Three Comedies on Pointe
November 4, 7, 8 7.00 p.m.
777 Eighth Avenue, Second Floor