Review: Johannes Wieland, roadkill

Last night, I reveled in a free evening away from Babyland and relished a fleeting series of activities that made me feel like a real person again: hair cut at a schmantsy Williamsburg salon, a better burger with a delightful friend, and some artsy fartsy at Dance Theater Workshop, which I hereby review.

Purported to investigate the subconscious and how it guides us, roadkill, by German choreographer Johannes Wieland, staged a disheveled, manic emotional scape framed by mostly black and white video scenes of the two performers on a rainy and desolate airport runway.  Ryan Mason and Eva Mohn danced and interacted in front of the projections, often questioned and challenged by their video counterparts who presented a giddy foil to the live performers’ surging angst.  Campy lip syncs were spliced against dark atmospheric rants, interspersed with intriguing dance phrases that highlighted the piece’s–especially the performers’–switchback energy.

Despite an initial video botch, roadkill drew me in with its chaotic leaf-strewn stage, aggrandized video projection, fully realized movement scheme and a gorgeous gorgeous female lead.  Happily, Mohn’s sculpted features propelled the work into some authentic, exploratory ground, her finely tuned form whipping through vigorous movement and emotional roils, then eeking to a solid stop at the last second before flitting into the next dynamic world.  Sadly, however, neither the video structures nor her dancing partner quite caught up with her, though they came close.  The projected vignettes, as well as Mason’s performance felt forced at times, a little stuck in a self-conscious performance rubric rather than dwelling whole-heartedly in the shifting moment, as Mohn so exquisitely demonstrated.  Also, Wieland’s choices at times felt contrived, with too much unison bridling the otherwise unfettered dancing, and awkward acting attempts tainting not a few of the video sequences.

Nevertheless, roadkill successfully delivered an overall compelling milieu of strange, epitomized by the final sequence: glamorous stage-Mohn lip-synced along with video-Mohn, herself lip-syncing Patsy Cline’s rendition of “You Belong to Me”.  The catch: it was all in reverse.  While the film and music played backwards, stage-Mohn expertly captured the retrograded nuances of gesture, weight and facial expression, her agile body traipsing seamlessly along the faltering gibberish, gulped back cadences and rhythmic consternation.  Resolving the piece in a triumphant and satisfying elipsis, Eva Mohn carried roadkill on her beautiful shoulders, rescuing it from a potentially messy thud on the tarmac.

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