In 2011, Attack Theatre presented, “What?…This is What,” a show that let audience members participate in the choreographic process through open rehearsals where we were free to provide feedback that informed the final production.
Since then, Artistic Directors, Peter Kope and Michele de la Reza, always felt there was more work to be done. This year they did their first remake of an old piece, something that happens in theater, music and TV/film all the time, but almost never in dance.
“The Chalk Line” opened two weekends ago, and continues its 10 day run through this Saturday, November 16th. The piece used the same crime drama inspiration as “What?” but delved deeper into the characters’ relationships with one other. In an evening of Attack-style wit and tragedy, five dancers performed the “finale” of the production.
To begin, Dane Toney set the stage. Or rather, set the DVR. On a large chalkboard that lined the back wall, he wrote “Season 2 Finale.” From there we watched as the drama unfolded, starting at the end.
Like most Law and Order episodes, there was a dead body. Liz Chang lay face up, her limbs outlined in chalk on the far end of the stage. The dancers entered slowly and without answers. Almost immediately, Toney brought us back to the pilot, where the clues unfolded.
Among the theatrics, there were many memorable movement phrases. Early on, a group section of individual solos swept back and forth across the floor. An exciting moment came when the dancers partnered on a couch. Ashley Williams fell into Brent Luebbert’s arms, while Kaitlin Dann slid to one end in an effort to see the TV. The dancers’ bodies intertwined as they leapt, climbed, and narrowly shifted out of each other’s way.
One intense but humorous scene began with Toney feverishly scribbling “Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife” on a second chalkboard. This was a jab at Luebbert who played the role of cheating partner. Sadly, Luebbert’s crime drove him to suicide, dangling from the front pillar by only a rope.
To reveal the suicide note, Toney set up a game of hangman (pun intended, of course), but the dancers failed to come up with the correct letters. To make light of this, Toney asked if an audience member would call his cellphone, which sat on the stage, and give the remaining letter of “Sorry.” One brave woman dialed in and the audience laughed, proving Attack’s ability to create dark humor.
Act 2 began with a funny recap of the first, using the popular TV series format of “Previously on…” The dancers gave the highlights at a fast forward pace.
An ominous sound from the live harmonica (by Stu Braun) led Chang’s opening solo and brought a sense of foreboding to the stage. Eventually, an eerie game of tic tac toe broke out on the back board. Three X’s won. Or did that mean – three strikes and you’re out?
Toney backed up against that wall as four dancers shot imaginary arrows at him. The William Tell Overture lightened the section and each performer ended up in danger, either climbing up the wall, somersaulting away from it, or tossing their bodies against it.
In the end, Chang’s body was once again outlined on the floor. The dancers wiped away the evidence, using their bodies to rid the floor and each board of the chalk markings they used to tell the story.
Unlike the smooth resolution of most television episodes, this show left the audience wondering. Kope and de la Reza exceled at creating an entertaining story without spoon-feeding. Despite a mysterious ending, the final image was deeply satisfying. Toney lay back into bed. He gestured to turn the TV off. The lights went out. Another episode of Attack Theatre ended.