The Dust

CAVEAT: I am once again touring a one-man show to the Kansas City Fringe Festival, affording me a unique opportunity to review some shows coming to the Minnesota Fringe in earlier stages of development – with the reminder that live theatre changes from performance to performance, and shows may undergo significant alteration from Fringe to Fringe.

The Dust
DESCRIPTION: Explore contemporary myth and belief through the archetypes of Death, Fate, Memory and Man. Using dance, poetry, experimental music and visual art, we’ll confront the heaviest of thoughts: our own mortality.

So I saw this group’s production of Mother Tongues last year, and was fairly lukewarm. I perked up a bit at their show description (see, I *do* read them!) (Sort of. Sometimes.), particularly at the phrase “explore contemporary myth and belief” because I am kind of all about that thing. Which was a bit misleading, since the show primarily seems to be a meditation on mortality, which is okay because I am also kind of all about that.

I found their outing this year to be a great deal more compelling for me than the last one, and I think a lot of that has to do with limiting the number of bodies onstage. (I should mention that I’m drawing entirely from memory here, regarding a show I saw once, a year ago, so I may misspeak – but I recall there being a much larger cast.) They’re better served, I think, by allowing us to keep an intense focus on individual movements – and this is an incredibly, meticulously detailed show.

(The other standout is the sound design – I wasn’t certain if it was a single, unbroken track, or if multiple tracks were being combined live, being slid in and out manually beneath the action. Very impressive, very cool stuff. And I say “sound design” rather than soundtrack because there’s very little music here – there’s static, and heartbeats, and whispered phrases, and it’s extremely effective. In fact, I gained new appreciation for it when, partway through, an actual song began to slither through the speakers, and it was so freaking startling to actually get something with, like, melody and rhythm and *clear human emotional intent*.)

That said, yes, it’s modern dance, and it can be a challenge to maintain focus on for a non-specialist. I don’t necessarily require clear narrative to be engaged by my entertainment – in fact, some of my favorite works of art have nothing of the kind – but in its place, I need something to hold my attention: captivating dialogue, cool images, et cetera. And this show has plenty of the latter.

(I wonder if it would have helped me – and I’m very, very hesitant to say this, because it was also one of the things I very much *liked* about the show – if it had had clear beginnings and endings: there are entrances, and exits, and solos, but for the most part the action and audio is continuous. Which is very, very cool, and one of the things that was very, very cool about their last show, so I’m guessing it’s a stylistic marker – but I suspect that it’s also part of what encourages my attention to drift.)

This is carefully, laboriously, scrupulously constructed – the performers are clearly exhausted by the end of the show, and working pretty crazy fucking hard to hold your attention. It’s just hard not to let your own attention be exhausted, as well.

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