Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul
No one can accuse Trademark Theater of repeating itself. In the few short years of its existence, the company has staged three full productions, all original works: a musical that melds youthful adventure with elegiac drama (The Boy and Robin Hood); a crisply scripted four-character, two-actor play about bridging the empathy gap between political camps (Understood); and now a stunning piece of dance-theater that is by turns lovely, disturbing, sensual and exhilarating. Who knows what we may expect next from Trademark?
Tyler Michaels King is founder and artistic director of Trademark Theater, nurturing it between high profile roles, like last season's Hedwig and the Angry Inch and To Let Go and Fall, both at Theater Latté Da, and supporting parts, such as this past summer's 42nd Street at the Ordway and the upcoming return of A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie. Clearly, he is an artist who cannot sit stillfortunately for Twin Cities theatergoers. Emily Michaels King has a frequent presence in both the dance and theater worlds, with her own collaborative dance company, E/D (with Debra Berger). The couple are both strong, lithe dancers, and their work together radiates a special chemistry that no doubt can be attributed to their off-stage relationship.
The Hollow is divided into three brief acts along with a closing epilogue. Each act includes songs composed by Jenna Wyse and Joey Ford, also a wife-husband pair, and part of the local band Tree Party. Wyse and Ford are accomplished vocalists, musicians and composers. Their songs for The Hollow span an arc from rock to folk to country to new-age. Their lyrics deal with the permeability of our body and spirit with all the matter of the universe, and the coming together and pulling apart of two persons within that universal mass. It is heady stuff and not easily discerned during the performance, but the creators kindly provide a booklet containing the lyrics. Even without knowing the words (I did not have the opportunity to peruse the booklet until after the performance), the musical styles and accompanying dance lend meaning to each segment of The Hollow.
In some segments two bodies are drawn toward one another, sometimes aggressively, other times in a coy flirtation. In some segments the two remain near one another, sometimes intricately entwined, with keen sensitivity to the other's presence. In other segments, Emily reaches out to extend or to separate herself from their pairing, while Tyler resists her growing distance, and in others they occupy two separate but parallel spaces. This is not necessarily an indication of aloofness, but can depict the need for solitude as well as bonding, and the joy of each being wholly themselves in kinetic unison, as thrillingly enacted to the closing song of the third act, "Happiest Memory."
Ford's expressive guitar and Wyse's evocative bass playing are joined by percussion (Marcus Bohn), used with discretion to add tone and texture to the music, and sublime marimba (Matt Silverberg), ringing out so that the music radiates through space. Antonia Perez, Jennifer Ledoux, and Annie Schiferl contribute vocal harmonies that add warmth and color to the compositions. The choreography and music seem bound together, as if both were born in the same burst of creative inspiration.
The Michaels Kings are dressed in matching costumes, designed by Sarah Bahr, that become less constrictive in each act, in accord with their increasing ease of the bonds between them. Within the spare, clean, neutral-toned cube that is the Tek Box, Giuliana Pinto has designed a set framed by two monolithic upright slabs behind the musicians, with a cone of light between them beaming down on a form that resembles a tombstone, with sand spilling out from its front, forming a pile. Around the room, on the side walls and at the intersection of the floor and the raised platform on which the musicians and vocalists are positioned, are other piles of sand, earth seeping into our constructed environment Karin Olson's lighting is a particularly vital ingredient in this production, with shading and focus that works with the music and movement to express the ebb and flow of the dancers' relationship. Kevin Springer's sound design presents the music, both vocal and instrumental, in crisp, clear tones.
While not a conventional work of musical theater, The Hollow is more than a dance program alone, for its thematic elements and its holistic synergy between movement, music and lyrics. It is a unique work that offers stunning imagery, rapturous music, frank sensuality and raw emotion, coalesced into an exquisite package.
The Hollow, a Trademark Theater production, runs through October 20, 2019, at the Tek Box, 528 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis MN. Tickets: $20.00 - $25.00. Students with ID, $15.00. For tickets and information, visit www.trademarktheater.org.
Creators-Movement (Emily Michaels King and Tyler Michaels King); Creators-Music: Joey Ford and Jenna Wyse; Scenic Design: Giuliana Pinto; Costume Design: Sarah Bahr; Lighting Design: Karin Olson; Sound Design: Kevin Springer; Stage Manager: Dylan Nicole Martin; Assistant Stage Manager: Callie Baack; Production Manager: Tyler Mills.
Cast: Marcus Bohn (percussion), Joey Ford (lead vocals/guitar), Emily Michaels King (Mover: Reach), Tyler Michaels King (Mover: Resist), Jennifer LeDoux (vocals), Antonia Perez (vocals), Annie Schiferl (vocals), Matt Silverberg (marimba), Jenna Wyse (lead vocals/bass).