I saw this modern dance adaptation of *King Lear* at New York Live Arts on 2/17. You may remember I was there this fall - - I had bought tickets for a trilogy of pieces by Miguel Gutierrez, and I left after the first one. It was deafeningly amateur. This show was much more rewarding. Things got off to a good start when I arrived at the theater and saw that 1) the lights were down at a reasonable level (they had been blinding white for Gutierrez), 2) the theater was silent (Gutierrez piped in what sounded like the love theme from a 1970's French made-for-TV movie), and 3) no one was going through the audience passing out nail polish.
It was the strangest audience I ever saw, almost entirely either under 30 or over 60. I had a celebrity sighting, always a thrill: Estelle Parsons. I was tempted to tell her how brilliant she was in *August; Osage County* on Broadway, but she didn't appear to be seeking out praise.
There were two dopey college boys sitting beside me and behind me. They were unintentionally hilarious.
1st GUY: Where'd you get that booklet?
2nd GUY: What booklet?
1st GUY: That thing you're looking at.
2nd GUY: Oh, you don't really need it. It's just got bios and stuff in it.
1st GUY: Where'd you get it?
2nd GUY: That guy back there gave it to me.
1st GUY: Is Debra here?
2nd GUY: Debra.
1st GUY: Yeah. Is she here?
2nd GUY: Who's Debra.
1st GUY: Our teacher.
2nd GUY: Is that her name?
1st GUY: Yes. [pause] Is she here?
2nd GUY: I don't know. [pause] She might be here.
Don't you love that: "She might be here." It has a Beckettian profundity. Those boys didn't know it, but they were doing a new play - - *Still Waiting For Godot: For the Dopey New Millennium*.
The house lights went down, the stage lights came up, and the star of the show, Valda Setterfield, came onstage. She's best known for her work with Merce Cunningham and her late husband, David Gordon. She's 81, and it's thrilling to see someone her age performing with such strength and ease.
She played Lear. The other three performers were young men playing Lear's daughters: American Marcus Bellamy as Goneril, Irishman Ryan O'Neill as Regan, and Frenchman Kevin Coquelard as Cordelia. The piece was about half dancing and half speaking, and I was impressed at how well the cast did both. The dancing parts were best: the choreography by John Scott was expressive and precise, rarely excessive. And he did my favorite thing: he made the most of his limited resources. The storytelling was in the movement and in the script, no helicopters or crashing chandeliers. Are those references a little dated?