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Lives of the Hoofers— Parallel Exit in "Time Step"

by Lori Ortiz
November 8, 2008
Joyce Soho
155 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10012
212-431-9233
It is a testament to the success of the fictional "Dapper Tap Trio" that upon leaving the theater, our bones ache, our lids are drooping, and we feel essentially overripe. The performers gained that much of our empathy.

Near the end of the physical comedy company Parallel Exit's performance at Joyce SoHo Thursday, November 6th 2008, a Trio of elderly hoofers are evicted from their homes after placing second in the senior talent show. They look at us, dumbfounded. And we are in complete sympathy. In fact, their act is so convincing that our applause had an element of pity in it.

"Time Step" is about the performers' life cycle. It starts off, unfortunately, with a complicated bait-and-switch of three spotlighted dancers, but Brent McBeth is always in the dark. Is this a lighting foible or part of the show, and does it matter? If you like clowns, you will like "Time Step."

The confusion did not stop the adoring crowd from their almost non-stop belly laughs and applause at every pratfall. Laughing at the elderly is something of a taboo. Was this funny to audience members of a certain age (who were not related to the performers)? There is an element of impending danger in the tripping up that works against our total absorption in their world.

Derek Roland's glasses go flying across the floor and his cane suggests a blind man's white cane as he pokes around for the almost invisible, wire-frame spectacles. Once he finds them though, amazingly he can dance and he dances elatedly. It is, shamefully, one of the most memorable scenes. Ryan Kasprzak plays a bumbling, semi-ambulatory, funny man with Parkinsonian shakes. McBeth is the whining, people-pleaser with the fragile nerves and bones. Roland is the leader of the pack.

There is some style and personality to their hoofing that we would like to see more of. For example, Kasprzak's swinging kick, forward and back attitude. They do their brief solo variations and some excellent unison tapping to old time piano rags and then a big band orchestral number, as a projected title '1940' changes to 48. In a "Fancy Free" sailor's tap dance, they impossibly change their crew whites to tuxedos, into the striped Ts, and back again into Julia Jeske's quick-change tux costumes. In '2008,' they sit at individual folding TV tables and decide to try to win the Seniors Talent Show, against a large, hanging cibachrome of themselves in their heyday wearing top hats and tux. They're sure to make the cash for their rent.

It ends on a bittersweet happy note. As long as they can dance, they'll be OK. They get themselves in shape, and life seems more like life than death.

"Time Step" is musical theater, silent film, vaudeville. More true-to-history visuals, real-time choreography and feats of physical theater would wow us really. However, the performance reinvests in the storyline, which, as it goes back and forth over the ages, has a 'talent show' feeling. In doing so, they underestimate themselves and us.

Their predicament moves us, and the show moves quickly. But the audience's laughter and applause felt almost as canned and camp as the bit of pre-recorded applause in the happily DIY score. The bleated tunes appear to emit from a wooden radio prop's beige, fabric-covered speaker. It all seems requisite.
Left to right: Ryan Kasprzak, Derek Roland, Brent McBeth

Left to right: Ryan Kasprzak, Derek Roland, Brent McBeth

Photo © & courtesy of Chris Fanjul


Left to right: Ryan Kasprzak, Derek Roland, Brent McBeth

Left to right: Ryan Kasprzak, Derek Roland, Brent McBeth

Photo © & courtesy of Chris Fanjul


Left to right: Ryan Kasprzak, Derek Roland, Brent McBeth

Left to right: Ryan Kasprzak, Derek Roland, Brent McBeth

Photo © & courtesy of Chris Fanjul


Left to right: Ryan Kasprzak, Derek Roland

Left to right: Ryan Kasprzak, Derek Roland

Photo © & courtesy of Chris Wisner

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