Jennifer Harrison Newman

Not With a Whimper, But a Bang

The Yale Cabaret’s 2010-11 Season ended this weekend with the bang of drums and other percussion. Michael McQuilken’s The Perks gave a new meaning to the term “musical theater.”  Usually that means characters in a play bursting into song-and-dance in an abundance of feeling.  At the Cab show, we were treated to musical pieces given a variety of theatrical treatments: as accompaniment to dramatic action, such as the death and burial of winter (Lupita Nyong’o) to Adrian Knight’s lyrical Mary’s Waltz; or as performance pieces, such as percussionists in rabbit masks playing Thierry de Mey’s Table Music on a table; or as theatrical musical pieces, as in the delightfully inventive Dressur by Mauricio Kagel, which calls for interaction amongst the musicians.  Then there was the big finale: a maelstrom of activity from choreographer Jennifer Harrison Newman and the cast to a storm of percussion from McQuilken and his cohorts (percussionists Yun-Chu Chiu, John Corkill, Ian Rosenbaum, Adam Rosenblatt).

Conceived to celebrate the return of spring, The Perks included video footage of the great outdoors: McQuilken climbing a tree to enhance a rhapsodic piece played by Chiu, and of Nyong’o rushing, like a crazed fan, across streets and across various locations on Yale’s campus, toward her object of adoration (the camera).

Each separate musical number was a mini-drama in its own right if only because playing percussion seems so performative to begin with—add an array of odd noisemakers constructed for the occasion, and you’ve got props as well as instruments.  This was nowhere more evident than in Dressur, which was scripted by its composer to be enacted, and which turns upon the successive failure of the percussionists to communicate the musical idea until finally the last one—Chiu—threw away her sticks and ran off.

Whether or not all the music expressed the theme of spring, the high spirits of the performers and the energetic nature of the pieces combined as a jolt to the system, just in time for the Passover / Easter season.

The Perks, A Rite of Spring; directed by Michael McQuilken

Created by Artists from the Yale Schools of Music, Art, and Drama

The Yale Cabaret, April 14-16

Connect at the Cabaret, Old Chum

It’s Valentine’s Day (aka VD).  Maybe you’ve got it covered with your favorite mating personage, your significant other(s), your steady, your squeeze, your spouse (or the person who would be that if the laws of the land permitted), but ... maybe not, maybe you’re looking to connect, somehow, someway. Maybe you turn to craigslist, home of the online hookup, or maybe you’re not quite ready to go virtual yet, so you look at “Missed Connections” hoping against hope that someone out there, someone whose path you’ve already crossed -- in line at Subway, at the bank, on that same path you walk every day to class, on the subway -- is desperately seeking you again, to get your digits, your screenname, the key to your city . . .

Chad Raines, of the local band The Simple Pleasure, has concocted the music, lyrics and book for Missed Connections, a guilty pleasure based on online personals, up for its final showing today at Yale Cabaret, and it’s a blast of sound, movement, and cagey, collective jeering at the pathetic losers we all risk being when we’re lookin’ for love, or, if not love exactly, then at least that special someone who will let you massage his or her feet ...

Pick your favorite moment: the phys ed girl, suffering from diarrhea, pining for the guy who will examine her stool (how much more intimate does it get?), or the guy at the Subway, intoning, in a hilarious Barry White take-off, how he noticed that girl in line with him, but was scared off when she ordered for two; or the gent with binoculars who likes to watch his neighbor take out her trash; or the pissed-off, stood-up woman who gives us a lesson in etiquette: if you’re married and seeking discreet connection on the side, it’s just not cool to be a no-show to someone else who’s married and seeking same ... there might even be a sitter’s fee involved!

The songs are high volume and extremely active.  Jennifer Harrison Newman once again choreographs the impossibly small “stage”at the Cabaret -- including a line dance, led by Raines, that’s so close you might catch a spray of sweat.  Director Christopher Mirto keeps the show loose and juicy, but also cheerily inviting -- it feels at times like we’re at “dating camp” and the cast are our counselors, trying to get us out of our shells.

There’s never a dull moment because you never know what’s coming next -- erotic tableaux, condoms flung to the crowd, a get-up and boogie number with lyrics shouting “woman for woman, man for man” rather than “celebrate good times, c’mon!”

And who knows, when it’s over there might even be a line on craigslist for you: You were at Yale Cab last weekend with some bozo and/or bimbo you clearly weren’t that into. I was the ____ with the ______.  Hope to see you there in two weeks (Feb 25-27) when the Yale Cab will feature Radio Station, inspired by the work of Shogo Ohta and the Pacific Performance Project/East.   Come alone, if you dare...

Missed Connections a new musical by Chad Aaron Raines directed by Christopher Mirto

Special Valentine's Performance! Sunday Feb 14 @ 8pm

How you gonna meet your missed connection?