|Traffic | Weather | Your account||Movies | Restaurants | Today's events|
Feathering nest with flights of fancy and experimentation
Seattle Times theater critic
This has been an unusually fecund season for experimental theater in Seattle. But Seattle's Degenerate Art Ensemble (formerly the Young Composers Collective) has been toiling in the avant garde trenches for a dozen years now, forging an underground recording career meshing original music, Japanese-influenced modern dance and quirky theatrics into offbeat spectacles.
The company's latest production, "Cuckoo Crow," performed last Saturday for a nearly full house of enthusiasts at the Moore Theatre, is surely the group's most intricate and technically ambitious foray to date.
Onto a slender filament of a fable about a fledgling cuckoo terrorized by two pesky crows (sort of "Swan Lake"-meets-Heckel and Jeckel), the Degenerate Art Ensemble piled on a load of musical, scenic and lighting/video elements. It all added up to a visual and sonic pastiche that could be a delight at times, and a derivative hodgepodge at others.
Most beguiling was the cuckoo bird herself, played from hatching onward with insouciant humor and Butoh intensity by Haruko Nishimura (also the show's director and choreographer). A lithe and pale-powdered figure in an elaborate dress of orange and yellow mock-feathers, Nishimura warbled, chattered, wriggled, flapped and at one point plunged deep into the audience, hiking deftly over patrons' cowering heads as she climbed from row to row of occupied seats.
The crows (Joshua Kohl and Josh Stewart), initially suspended on high wires, marched along the sides of light towers and somersaulted on metal trapeze contraptions — like punky descendants of the Rhinemaidens in Seattle Opera's most recent version of "The Ring."
An array of what looked like woven half-nests also dangled from the rafters. Animated film sequences (by Stefan Gruber), resembling old Tweety Bird cartoons, materialized on the side of a bicycle-powered ice-cream truck and other surfaces. And among Rainer Gröenhagen's trippy lighting effects was a vast, rising swarm of small birds, painted in shadow.
The omnipresent musical score, composed and performed live by Kohl, Stewart and four comrades, was vocal and instrumental, electronic and acoustic, processed and raw, plaintive and raucous.
In synch with the avian theme, the musicians conjured a primeval forest of warbling and bleating, scraping, clicking, cooing and twittering which could be very captivating. But the drums and synthesizers also emitted sporadic rounds of bashing, crashing and clanging, to the point of ear-splitting monotony.
Though Kohl, Walsh and Nishimura co-founded the troupe and seem to be its driving trio, a good many cohorts were involved in the creation of "Cuckoo Crow." That was evident in both the elaborate scale of the production and in its over-indulgent pacing — which, to be fair, did not prevent many in the audience from cheering on the Degenerate Art Ensemble's magical mystery tour through their own private birdland.
Misha Berson: email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company