When you first enter the MCA’s theatre space, your eyes may take a while to adjust. That’s because the stage is obfuscated by a thick haze lit with eerie yellow lighting. It’s unclear what, if anything, is lurking on stage, but there’s a feeling of unease that permeates the auditorium. That unease is further heightened when a performer enters the space to share the story of The Willful Child, a lesser-known fairytale by the Brothers Grimm about a young girl who is killed for being disobedient. Over the next sixty minutes, issues of will and willfulness will be further refracted amidst a haunting imagistic landscape featuring four performers.
Sparse but striking design in Water Will (In Melody)
From the slick marley floor which reflects the dancers’ movements in the mist like water, to the large, knotted rope which hangs ominously at the back of the stage, you won’t be alone if you shift uncomfortably in your seat. There is also the drone of an intense musical backdrop. Even the lighting design seems intended to create discomfort, such as a confrontational spotlight that searches frantically through the audience before resting on one area of the auditorium. Prepare to be enveloped in a stark and enigmatic world, thanks to the cavernous use of lights, sound, and mist. Although the scenic design in Water Will (In Melody) is minimal, each technical element works together to create an experience that envelops you in tone.
Impressive, frightening choreography at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
Just as haunting as the design are the movements of the cast of four dancers. Clad in white and black costumes fashioned from latex, each dancer shows an impressive range of movement, executing Ligia Lewis’ choreography with frightening precision. Many of the movements seem to suggest a deep undercurrent of trauma, as performers move their bodies in ways more suggestive of grotesque Barbie dolls, or frenetic marionettes, than that of the human form. Even with some jarring humor sprinkled in —just wait for the Enya disco remix— the overall result was at times too oppressive for this writer. Although not minding being uncomfortable when attending dance or theatre, a disconnect between the curatorial notes about white supremacy and the work on stage did make some moments of the evening feel a tad impenetrable. That being said, for adventurous fans of the avant-garde, strong moods, and exquisitely executed choreography, there will likely be many rewards to grapple with Ligia Lewis’ evocative conclusion to the BLUE, RED, WHITE trilogy.
Through February 1, 2020
Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
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