Adapting to Domesticity

lucky plush productions, the better half @ mca chicago, 6 november 2011.

Lucky Plush Productions, The Better Half. Photograph: Cheryl Mann.

Lucky Plush never quite got to their adaptation of the noir film Gaslight in The Better Half, but that was the point. This was a performance about breaking out of scripts, about the way that the real stories always start around the frame, drawing from it but never quite fully entering into it.

The very nature of the production—half dance, half theater—located the authentic tale at the interstice, the edge between forms. But Lucky Plush went further. The dancers kept interrupting the story to ask the director questions about their roles. They ran out of the auditorium and back in. Yet then they would move into quite beautiful repetitions of dance sequences, as if to suggest that we always must return to the gestures, hints, clues, roles, and rituals that existing scripts, films, norms, and forms provide for us—indeed demand of us.

The Better Half, as its name suggests, was most of all an exploration of the assumptions that steer courtship. How do two people move from being strangers to becoming intimate? How do they do so by entering into existing narrative structures yet also resisting those structures? When does the mystery of intimacy emerge in all its glory, and how?

The play portrayed individuals in a couple as dancers playing actors trying to grasp their roles in an old film script. But the actual plot of the film was not important. It was merely in the background, dimmed by the spotlights on the transformations happening through the adaptation. The two main dancers, a man and woman assigned the role of a married couple, were like metal filaments with shifting charges: sometimes they polarized, sometimes they magnetized, at first they were utterly strange to each other, but eventually they connected, at the back corner of the stage, gleaming and glowing even in the darkness that surrounded them.

They had kissed awkwardly at first, testing each other out, feigning intimacy, pretending to be an established domestic couple when they knew they were not. Then, continuing the dance, they moved dizzily through farce, burlesque, melodrama, comedy, theater of cruelty, Brechtian exposition, cheesy postmodern pastiche, athletic movement, startling weirdness, and everything in between until it mattered not what they were supposed to do, only that they had done it. They adapted—and in doing so were changed for the better halves.


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