REVIEW: RoseAnne Spradlin at New York Live Arts
G-h-o-s-t c-r-o-w-n (working title) begins like a ballet gone wrong—Rebecca Warner and Natalie Green repeat classical vocabulary interminably, as though possessed or as though they have forgotten the next step and are desperately trying to summon it via muscle memory. A live (exceptional) musical trio pipes in, led by an eerie, almost familiar violin. As Warner flies across the stage in heroic sissone after heroic sissone, I think I’ve seen this work before.
Then the choreography doesn’t change. And when Green is still waving her arms like a dying swan several minutes later, with Warner still arcing through the air, RoseAnne Spradlin’s singular sensibility emerges. For the next hour, we’re presented with vibrant images, each totally distinct, none explicitly connected. (In conversation after the performance, I compared something of the work’s structure to tapas.) There are perhaps a total of ten dance “steps”, four or five spatial tracks, one literal monument. We see a sped-up black-and-white 1931 film, with a plot that whizzes past too quickly to fully surmise, and it gets our undivided attention, uninterrupted by movement except that of the spinning, glimmering sculpture by Glen Fogel, constantly present, never commented upon.
By laying out these big, bold, separate elements—movement, sculpture, film, and music—Spradlin invites us to formulate and answer our own questions. By orchestrating tics, slip-ups in an otherwise neat chorus, she hints at an unrest under a gamely hardworking ensemble. By literally stripping the performers bare, she answers the question of how much they are willing to show of themselves. It’s a frank episode, not in the least belabored, performed with a nice mix of self-awareness and indifference.
g-h-o-s-t-c-r-o-w-n is totally engaging, concisely provocative. Every performer commits fully. I would have watched it for much longer; days later, I’m still wondering what could have happened next.