I never thought of being a man
Until you told me so…
What was I when I wasn’t what I should be?
Haunting lyrics bookend Danielle Georgiou Dance Group’s (DGDG) holistic offering at the 2015 Festival of Independent Theatres, running July 10 through August 1st at the Bath House Cultural Center. The Show About Men pinpoints the primary question of the piece in the audience’s heads right from the start, the same question Hamlet asks: “What is a man?”
Danielle Georgiou, Justin Locklear and the outstanding ensemble in The Show About Men run with this question over the next 45 minutes, utilizing dialogue, monologue, dance, and original music in a non-traditional exploration of the definitions of manhood. The personal experiences and beliefs of the performers play in juxtaposition against the backdrop of society’s expectations. That exploration, alone, provides an entertaining, provocative night of theatre. Director Danielle Georgiou and her mostly male ensemble accomplish far more. DGDG’s performers’ journey transcends cultural issues of manhood; it asks and responds to the underlying question, “What makes a man?”
The performances from the ensemble are engaging and personalized across the board. Specific moments strike deep chords. In one, a college drop-out learns how to come to terms with his past. In another, a gay man who equates manhood with acting tough joins the military, winning 2012’s “soldier of the year” during “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, while he never feels his inner reality matches the outer manifestations of the men around him. Less than halfway through the performance an irreverent, priceless original musical piece centers on what many should have learned in high school Anatomy and Biology class (I laughed so hard I think I drew focus. . . well done, performers Justin Locklear and Trey Pendergrass.).
It is difficult to praise specific performances as the program doesn’t identify one actor/dancer from another, merely lists their names: William Acker, Colby Calhoun, Matt Clark, Curtis Green, Gabriel King, Justin Locklear and Trey Pendergrass.
Not credited in the program, Kayla Anderson serves as a crucial pivot for several critical scenes in the show. She is a rock star. In one effective moment she stands in as a Barbie Doll (not a “boy toy”), demonstrating impressive, surprisingly specific pantomime skills sitting upon a suggested toilet, located beside a row of suggested urinals. She “relieves” herself in the most impressive musical feat of the evening, an instant doo-wop-style classic, “Gender Neutral Bathroom in the Sky.” In addition to inspiring many laughs throughout the show, the work excels in its poignancy.
One criticism: a public service announcement-style segment that immediately follows “Gender Neutral Bathroom in the Sky” seems out of place. This scene interrupts the magnetism and flow of the show. Performers sit in chairs and stare directly at the audience, demanding full attention (which they already have) as they impart important factual information. Although relevant and sobering details emerge (male rape and suicide statistics), the scene’s delivery feels contrived and seems to belong to a different show all together. Could Director Georgiou and her wickedly talented crew find a different means of expressing the information, integrating it more with the tone and style of the work?
Ultimately, The Show About Men examines less about who we are as men, and more about what we are as people. It explores identity, fear, weakness, coming of age, and learning to take first steps toward self-actualization, all universal subjects. The performance makes an exquisite piece of theatre (or dance-theatre as the program asserts) — beautiful, engaging, skillful and moving. Any man walking out of the theatre after the performance might wonder, “Maybe I shouldn’t think so much about what it is to be a man, maybe I should think more about what it is to be me.”
By special contributor R. Andrew Aguilar