Watching Clutch Yr Amplified Heart Tightly and Pretend, the current offering at the Yale Cabaret, I thought about actors: How are they trained? How do they do the things they do? Like: how do they express something dramatically without benefit of characters? That final question is germane, I think, because CYAHTAP is not really “about” anything—there are some amusing skits and lots of vigorous movement—I particularly enjoyed the ensemble’s dance to Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies)”—but there’s little in the way of dialogue and no characters per se. And yet it’s an actors show, or rather, an actors-as-dancers show. The interest is in what the actors, mostly silently, are able to convey as actors in movement—and what they convey is about the dynamics of love and loss, of belonging and fighting, of one body getting to know itself and another.
Which is to say: these aren’t dancers per se and this isn’t only a dance piece. Seeing Michael Place throwing a carefully choreographed bodily fit across the entire length of the Cab’s floorspace is to see something expressed, arguably, within a play, rather than within a dance. Everyone in the piece is portraying something or at least projecting something. And that’s what kept me engaged with it. In fact, the spoken parts tended to detract.
It begins with Merlin Huff’s seemingly off-the-cuff monologue that begins to ramble toward the philosophic, apostrophizing Rene Descartes (I suppose because of that mind/body duality notion he takes the rap for)—and later Huff returns to broach a series of rhetorical philosophical questions that become exceedingly dull to listen to, like maybe listening to a tedious teacher possessed by the Socratic method. But Huff isn’t a total bore—his frenetic involvement, like a kid watching his favorite show, with the company's Robot dance and his threats to Solomon Weisbard, the Lights technician who cuts them off (only to perform a kind of spastic dance of his own), were nutty enough to be amusing.
Then there was the male-to-male pas de deux by Mickey Theis and Dustin Wills. It managed to be poetic and ironic and athletic and erotic all at the same time—certainly I’ll hear Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” differently from now on.
There’s also fun with light and dark and projections and space and making faces (special credit to Chris Henry on that score) and miming (Jabari Brisport escaping from a wrecked vehicle was funny) and dancing (especially Jillian Taylor) and filling the time with different kinds of pretending.
Clutch Yr Amplified Heart Tightly and Pretend Yale Cabaret February 23-25, 2012