REVIEW: Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company

Sitting in the audience of the Power Center, I soon realized how distant this show was from any previous theater experiences I’d had before. The show began looking into the set of a vaguely warehouse-esque room with a column in the middle, and the first thing to happen was the movement of electrical cords, spreading apart to opposite ends of the stage. Almost ghost-like, they seemed to move on their own accord and there was no indication where the movement was coming from. This first minute was when I began to question what I had entered into for the next two hours. As I searched for words and footholds into this piece, something to describe and relate to it, the closest mainstream theater description I could find became the musical Chicago meets psychological-thriller-horror-movie. Think jazz numbers and spangled costumes mixed with the anticipation of brutal plot twists and fear. The lack of footholds to grasp onto in the piece, though, seems characteristic of new age-y modern expressionism. It is the interiority of the creator depicted onto the stage, meant to make the audience think and contemplate, not merely for surface-level enjoyment. A potential, and possibly more accessible, dance comparison that kept coming to mind throughout the performance was the “Slip” video that circulated the internet about while ago.

Both the slippery, interconnected choreography and the eery industrial set (with flickering fluorescents and all) is quite similar in style to that of Betroffenheit. The first act of the production mixed theater and dance together, with very little dialogue. In a premonitory twist, a strobe-light warning was issued before the show began; as it progressed, the production itself became a strobe effect. A bombardment of the senses, I continually felt that just as I had regained my balance and was beginning to understand, I was quickly thrown off, left reeling and scrambling back into the show.

Image c/o Kidd Pivot

The show was an exploration in the experience of trauma, and though it held the aforementioned eery quality, it was not exclusively a dark production. A bright and exciting cha cha-esque number was thrown in, along with a series of tap and vaudevillian pieces.

The second act was more of a dance production than theater, focusing on the choreography of Crystal Pite. Her work in Betroffenheit was mesmerizing; almost pedestrian with liquid-like partnering work that featured the breadth and skill of the performers more so than the first act had. While I struggled to grip and understand the first act’s interpretation and representation of emotional exploration, I loved the emotion and expression through the choreography.

Image c/o UMS

As I listened to the reactions of those sitting around me, many people were in love with Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company’s work. Many also seemed as though this style of performance was not outside their wheelhouse. Betroffenheit, from my interpretation, seemed like a show best suited for those saturated within the dance and experimental performance community – those who are constantly looking at and working with this genre of material. While I, as an outsider, could appreciate and enjoy pieces of it, I feel as though the powerful and soul-stirring impact was somewhat lost on my uninstructed-self.

REVIEW: Marie Antoinette

Before looking at the details of the production, I was intrigued by the subject matter. Marie Antoinette is rife with history and controversy when looking at both political and cultural issues. The play highlights the role of a woman in a characteristically male world. Arguably, it is her who has claimed the spotlight of history, surpassing any of her male counterparts in notoriety. I also admire the work of the RC Players in putting a female story on the stage, with an all-female production crew.

Before attending this performance, the production of this play had me concerned. Marie Antoinette has become synonymous with opulence, luxury, and material excess, yet the RC Players’ performances are often stripped down to the essentials when it comes to sets and costuming. According to the program, the show was put together in three weeks, a feat even for a minimalistic play. Despite the time crunch, the show was filled with costume changes and a shifting set that worked to illustrate the frivolity of Marie Antoinette’s world.

Image c/o RC Players: Marie Antoinette

My absolute favorite part, hitting me right as the play began, was the play’s “soundtrack”. I’d recommend reading this article with ABBA’s “Head Over Heels” playing in the background, which – following in the guise of Marie Antoinette – I’ve claimed as my new life accompaniment. The play transitioned to the sounds of 60s/70s pop and soul music, including Nancy Sinatra and The Ronettes, as well as featuring the songs of Edith Piaf (can anything art form covering French subjects really leave her out?).

The play looks at the artifice and self-involvement of the French court during the reign of Marie Antoinette. The dialogue was held in an octave above comfort, saturated with pompousness and narcissism only too available when detailing 18th century French court. I tried to allot some sympathy for the plight of the subjects, and many-a-time I came close, only to have it dashed to pieces by a childish and shallow comment. As David Adjmi’s play looks at history through a contemporary lens, it became necessary to contemplate today’s society. Adjmi’s representation of Marie Antoinette was not as a political figure, but a candy-coated, diamond-encrusted celebrity that could easily fit into today’s mold. Really, even today, are these two roles explicitly different anymore? I found myself looking to the servants on the sidelines of the play; non-speaking roles, yet I could identify with their silence the most. Forced to serve the whims of the aristocratic, the subtle eye rolling served to give me some grounding among an otherwise shallow cast-of-characters. Even as the tears of Marie Antoinette, as she stood at the guillotine, were echoing off the stage I couldn’t completely align myself with her. This, though, is the legacy of Marie Antoinette. History both feels for her and detests her. She has become wrought with much more nuance and controversy, both positive and negative, than other casualty of the French Revolution.

PREVIEW: Kidd Pivot and Electric Company Theatre

The name Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company itself intrigued me enough as I flipped through UMS performances. Unless you speak German (I don’t), the title Betroffenheit does not give away any hints as to what the performance consists of. A German expression meaning deep-rooted shock and bewilderment, the performance combines theater and dance to explore the experiences of tragedy and loss. While it appears to be deep, dark, and eerie, comment after comment on the show’s previous performances contains the repeated message of the show’s compelling, powerful, and life-changing qualities.  While I’ve fought through my background knowledge in theater performances to find anything to compare the looks of Betroffenheit to, I’ve come up blank. Betroffenheit appears to be like no other performance I’ve (and possibly you, unless you’re adventurous with your theater) ever seen before. 

March 17 and 18, 8 pm

Power Center

Students: $12, Adults: $26-$46

PREVIEW: RC Player’s Marie Antoinette

While delving into the world of American playwright David Ajmi’s Marie Antoinette, it is evident this revisionist history comes from the growing oeuvre of theater-meets-pop-culture. Labeled a “tragicomic satire”, it turns its French Revolution-era subject into a mirror for today’s political climate. Put on by the RC Players, I am interested to see how they will take Ajmi’s work and run with it, not only with the script, but with any potential set and costumes (though that’s possibly due to the cotton-candy spectrum of the Sofia Coppola film coming to mind). With the potential to invigorate (or infect, depending on your historical tastes) the continually-analyzed figure of Marie Antoinette with the self-absorbed pop culture of today, I’m excited to see how vain and indulgent their Marie can become to create the biting satire that humbly reminds us we haven’t distanced ourselves too much from the past two-hundred-fifty years.

March 17 & 18, 8pm

Keene Theater, East Quad


Image c/o the American Repertory Theater’s 2012 production of Marie Antoinette

REVIEW: The Head and the Heart

Situated in the upper most balcony of Hill Auditorium, the view was much better than I had expected it to be (the eternal feeling of falling forward, out of the balcony and towards the stage, though, was entirely expected of Hill). The space lacked the closeness I normally look forward to in concerts, where it feels like a conversation with the performers, rather than an arena-style, bird’s-eye-view. Both the members of the opening act, Whitney, and the Head and the Heart worked to create what intimacy they could, chatting back and forth with an expansive and faceless audience. The crowd, much to my surprise, was made up of largely older couples. It could be that I’ve created the illusion of the late-teens/early twenties indie audience based off of one too many music festivals; likely, Ann Arbor is more conducive to a wide-range, indie folk audience than elsewhere.

The stage was set like the cover of the Head and the Heart’s new album, Signs of Light. Potted palm-fronds were scattered throughout, with a neon sign that evoked only the best new-agey seventies vibes. It transformed Hill from a concert hall into almost a basement lounge atmosphere (filled with all 3,500 of your friends), aided by the performers continual toasting of red Solo cups.  While the setting of Hill relaxed its “acoustical perfection” for a more casual atmosphere, elements of its austere presence remained.

For this concert, especially with how chummy and charismatic the performers worked to be, I just wanted to be able to dance. One of my favorite benefits of live music is being able to stand uncomfortably close to the stage, being able to feel the music of the speakers shake the floor, the air, and the crowd, and watching everyone dance however they feel moved. In Hill, I could look down from the balcony to see maybe two or three carefree listeners dancing in the aisles, but the rows upon rows of chairs, as well as the added threat of height, kept most in their seats.
The opening band complemented The Head and the Heart’s music, adding a bit more of an indie-pop feel to the feature’s folk vibe. I loved the incorporation of a trumpet into the band, adding a bit of an unexpected (though not unseen in contemporary music) twist to their music. The Head and the Heart performed many of their most popular works – namely “All We Ever Knew”, “Lost in My Mind”, and ending with “Rivers and Roads” – in quick succession, moving from one piece to another.  

All in all, I loved being able to watch the Head and the Heart perform so close to home, a chance that seems to be getting smaller and smaller as their popularity grows. It made me crave the intimacy and closeness that smaller spaces like The Ark provide (that also allow for the glorious choice of sitting, standing, or dancing), but I can’t denounce a venue that’s directly on campus and offers an unobstructed view and acoustical perfection of a front-running indie band. Their folksy, sweet Americana feel makes for a nice addition to any upcoming summertime soundtrack.


PREVIEW: The Head and the Heart

A part of their Signs of Light tour, the indie-folk group will be performing with the opening band Whitney. If you’re looking to catch the rapidly-rising Head and the Heart in your own Ann Arbor backyard (they’re also set to perform at The Governor’s Ball, Bonnaroo, and Coachella for this summer’s festival season), the performance will be held at Hill Auditorium on February 28, at 8 pm. Tickets range from $30-$40.

The Head and the Heart’s work first entered into my orbit of interest with their self-titled 2010 album (my favorite track being “Ghosts”). Their song “Rivers and Roads” is probably most notable, even to those who don’t initially recognize the band’s name. It’s feature on the season finale of TV’s New Girl sent me frantically searching for the artist of the song, and thus an interest was born. Their songs have woven their way through various Spotify playlists of mine, though I’ve got a ways to go before I could classify myself a fully-versed fan. I think this will be quickly corrected, though, for their natural sound makes for a great live experience.