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MARGARET JENKINS DANCE CO.

MARGARET JENKINS DANCE CO.

JOYCE THEATER MARCH 30-APRIL 4, 1999

It was difficult for me to really care about the characters in choreographer Margaret Jenkins's newest work, Breathe Normally. They were too busy mumbling lines like this one: "There was a time ... remember that one?"

What was worse in the seventy-five-minute work was that the esteemed actress, Olympia Dukakis, had to read the lines. But Dukakis, who was creative consultant on the project, is not completely free of fault, since the story of Breathe Normally is based on a catastrophe that happened to her family. The event, about which we learn through a steady stream of voice-overs, monologues, and dialogues, was a car accident in which eight of the ten passengers, members of a single family, were killed. Lamentable, of course, and although it seemed that the event should engender compassion, text-writer Rinde Eckert managed to create such a plotless, diffuse retelling that I hardly cared who died and how the survivors felt about it.

The cast of seven, however, ranging in age from thirty-two to seventy-two, delivered vigorous performances, riddled with sarcasm and irony. Director Ellie Klopp created a living-room-like world where family members came and went.

The stage remained in dim light throughout, with an almost Gothic loneliness. There was a mysterious hourglass, projected above a doorway, that never seemed to run out, and a funny Grandpa who cracked himself up with witty stories. Unique images--an old man throwing change at a groveling woman who attempts to eat the coins, or a dozen-plus shoes thrown onto an empty stage--made for a rich and ornate work.

The text, however, didn't rise to the otherwise creative and well-executed occasion. Eckert seemed to be going for the far side of subjectivity in Breathe Normally. Even lovers of Pinter or Beckett might have walked out shaking their heads. Jenkins has had a long and distinguished career as a choreographer--this is part of her twenty-fifth anniversary tour--and is noted for risk-taking. Exploring new ground is always a noble cause, but if the public is not enlightened by a work, it should at least be entertained.
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Title Annotation:Review; Joyce Theater, New York, New York
Author:GIORDANO, KEVIN
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jul 1, 1999
Words:352
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