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Susan Weinrebe
Performance Reviews
The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
United States
Chicago, IL


by Susan Weinrebe
March 10, 2007
The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
50 E. Congress Parkway
Chicago, IL 60605
Diavoloissimo! If that's not a word, it should be. Devilish, daring, unpredictable, turning the coin on its side. That's the troupe extraordinaire known as Diavolo.

The first hint that something different was afoot came when Brett Batterson, Executive Director of the Auditorium Theatre and Jacques Heim, Artistic Director of Diavolo, stepped in front of the curtain to introduce the show. A few moments of self-effacing humor, and improvised remarks ending with the admonition to have "…fun, otherwise I'll come and spank you silly," was unlike any other introduction I'd ever heard.

Then, as the lights turned to twilight and the techno thrum of insistent machines built tension among those who waited, the performance began.

Knockturne (2006)
Section One: "Night"
Section Two: "Day"

Guest Creative Collaborator for Music and Dramaturgy: Paul James Prendergast
Set Design and Construction: Roger Webb, Shawn Ellis, Cinnabar, Mike McCluskey
Lighting Design: Alain Jourdenais
Costumer: Caesareo Ruiz

Flanking the sides of the stage, two framed-out doors stood as the set for Knockturne. Ironic metaphor and expressive movement, capsulized the humorous difficulties of a couple trying to connect romantically with each other. As the doors opened and closed in the spirit of classic farce, the pair missed each other like unawakened dreamers. With a kiss, as a little night music played, romance turned silly and the sight gag of petite Briana Bowie played against Jones Welsh's height. "Section One" dissolved into "Section Two" as clearly as day follows night when Miss Bowie let down the gathered panels of her skirt, climbed onto Mr. Welsh's shoulders, creating a Mother Ginger effect, and they made their way through a cloud strewn landscape to exit yet another door at the back of the stage.

But wait a mo'! Those weren't clouds after all; they were pillows among which the rest of The Company slumbered. Awakening, they too pursued one another through a prepositional collection of body movement using the doors as props: above, beside, beyond, next to, over and through.

Blending dance, gymnastics, tai chi, and wit, Knockturne segued into further visual punning as The Company spied on one another through giant keyholes in the doors. As the pace of the frenzied movement increased, doors were stacked into a pyramid and the first couple still tried to connect with each other. The music pumped from Tom Waits-like gravelly singing to the seductive sounds of a tango bandoneón and then, as high school chaperones used to say, "It's all fun and games until…" Knockturne ended with a storm of feathers from The Company's pillow fight.

Apex (1998)

Performed by Renee Larsen, Jones Welsh

Apex was a bit of lagniappe added to the program in place of a 5 minute pause. The performers, degendered by hooded white jumpsuits and not counting Ms. Larsen's red lipstick, used two large aluminum ladders as their physical props for this piece. As they used the high-pitched language of clowns (Ow! Hey! Ohhh!) they struggled with the ladders, each other and themselves to find their places and balance. This piece should have been introduced with a caveat: Kids, don't try this at home!

D2R-A (1995, re-worked 2005)

Performers: The Company
Set Design: Daniel Wheeler
Set Construction: Daniel Wheeler
Lighting Design: Evan Merryman Ritter
Costume Design: Laura Brody

A steeply raked board with pipes jutting from it at regular intervals was the ominous set for D2R-A. Costumed in tanks and loose pants similar to army wear, The Company ran full tilt around one another and the board. Heaving themselves against the wall, they bounced off and attacked it from other positions. Try slurring the title, D2R-A to hear that "detour" is another of Jacques Heim's commentary puns.

As they stormed over the top and slithered between the pipes in every imaginable variation of form, the ten performers did not so much seem to be individuals as parts of an interlocking device or figures meshing together as in an M.C. Escher tessellation. Relentless music like a sacrificial imperative at an ancient Mayan ritual, drove the performers to ever more frantic cycles of movement without any recognizable goal achieved.

Trajectoire (1999)

Performers: The Company
Set Design: Daniel Wheeler
Engineering: Dan Williams
Set Construction: Mike McCluskey Ltd. And Daniel Wheeler
Lighting Design: Daniel Ionazzi
Costume Design: Meegan Godfrey
Original Music Composition: Nathan Wang

Beginning calmly enough with figures silhouetted against a demi-lune, the shape was quickly enough seen to be the hull of a boat as the lights came up and The Company climbed aboard. This set was an amazing piece of construction used as metaphor and appliance for increasingly energetic and risk-taking choreography. Individuals mounted the deck, steeply canted, pitching and heaving, powered by the kinetic force of the bodies. Performers undeniably in harm's way with the slightest miscalculation, slipped between the rails of the deck at high speed, caromed from side to side as if tempest tossed, lay down before the juggernaut, and launched themselves in breathtaking leaps of faith into waiting arms.

This was Diavolo's first visit to Chicago and it is hoped the Auditorium will be an annual stop on their tour schedule. The unique performance vision of the team makes them a compelling act to catch. No spankings to have fun needed here!

Artistic Director: Jacques Heim
Associate Artistic Director, Manager: Garrett Wolf
Rehearsal Director: Renee Larsen
Education Outreach Director: Carrie Green
Video Archivist: Melinda Ritchie
Costume Manager: Crystal Zibalese
Business: Marah Morris
Production Manager: Eduardo Estrada
Lighting Designer: Evan Merryman Ritter
Lighting Director: Alain Jourdenais
Technical Assistant: David Zibalese
The Company: Ken Arata, Briana Bowie, Philip Flickinger, Becca Greenbaum, Renee Larsen, Melinda Ritchie, Jones Welsh, Garrett Wolf, Crystal Zibalese, David Zibalese
Public Relations: Jill Evans of Carol Fox & Associates
All Choreography by The Company, under the direction of Jacques Heim
Educational Outreach: Polk Bros. Foundation
Diavolo in D2RA

Diavolo in D2RA

Photo © & courtesy of Elazar Harel

Diavolo in KnockTurne

Diavolo in KnockTurne

Photo © & courtesy of Elazar Harel

Diavolo in Trajectoire

Diavolo in Trajectoire

Photo © & courtesy of Elazar Harel

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