Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Dance Review: Crazy Fun with Crazy Head Space @Seaport

Crazy Head Space photo Mia RossySome sensitive issues, like mental illness, shouldn’t be taken lightly.  But there’s some unwritten law that we’re allowed to make fun of ourselves, giving Elizabeth S. Davis, who’s living with bipolar illness, the license to write Crazy Head Space.  This mostly comical musical, performed by Abraxas Stage Company and choreographed by Matthew Neff, celebrates psychological disorders through eccentric characters singing witty lyrics, making having a mental illness look like fun.

@Seaport looks like a restaurant turned theater, with just a few feet of stage space before a staircase rising up in the back.  The 23-member cast fills the space, using the stairs as a second tier.  As they open their mouths for the first note, I realize that this production is big talent in a small space. It’s Broadway calibre talent on Front Street.

The show takes us on a theatrical journey of psychological disorders from A to Z, literally, dedicating one song to a disorder for each letter of the alphabet, with projected text to help us follow along.  "Addiction" introduces the cast of crazies, dressed in multicolored whimsical outfits and hospital bracelets.  A naughty nurse introduces herself with a sassy jazz dance, doing grand battements in red fishnets and heels.

In true bipolar fashion, the pendulum swings from comedy to drama, from upbeat pop song to ballad, and from ensemble to solo. "Depression" shows the dancers appropriately still, they can’t be bothered with dancing, while other sections explode with high energy dance, front walkovers and leaps in second.

Abraxas Stage Company is not afraid to get down and dirty.  In "Vagina Envy", the naughty nurse spreads her legs in a super wide second for an extended crotch shot.  "Urophilia" shows the cast waving yellow ribbons over Mike Harrison’s head as he sings "ur-ine over your head."  Then he touches on blasphemy by belting gospel hallelujahs while reveling in having ribbons of "urine" tickle his face.

The show offers so many clever moments that if you happen to miss one, you’ll catch the next.  In "Narcissism," a solo of course, singer Carl Anthony-Tramon holds an epic note while glancing at an imaginary watch, milking every second of undivided attention.  As a side note, I’ll mention that his bio is the longest in the program.  Coincidence?  Another brilliant moment is with the letter "W."  In lieu of a psychological disorder starting with "W," they dedicate the letter to Woody Allen, projecting his image briefly with no additional commentary.  This is my kind of humor.

This musical is not all about singing. The dancers bust their asses.  From high energy acrobatics to slinky jazz on pointe, they’re on top of it the whole time.

I’m under the impression that a way to deal with mental illness is to put it out there in the open.  Suppressing the problem only exaggerates it.  This cast is putting it out there, and having a blast in the process.  It makes me want to tap into the crazy inside of me, which may be closer to the surface than I think.

Photography by Mia Rossy

iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by
Julie Fotheringham
Performance: Abraxas Stage Company,
Crazy Head Space
Choreography:  Matthew Neff
Venue: @Seaport, New York City
Date: March 26, 2009

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