Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Dance Review: A Perfect Break, Jen Abrams at Wow Cafe Theater

There is something to be said for art that accomplishes it’s goals, and Jen Abrams knows how to make it. However, success within the work doesn’t necessarily translate to success as performance. Most of This is True, running now through November 8th at Wow Cafe theater, is a clear, tight example of an art piece which knows exactly what it wants, and, mostly, how to get it.

Appearing at Wow Cafe, the longest-running, anarchically run women’s and transgender people’s collective in the world, Abrams’ work takes on the lives of four women who are sisters, friends, and lovers. At first, dynamics between the three original characters are functional, if flawed and Abrams skillfully uses movement as sub-text for spoken relationships between characters. All of this is well-constructed, and well-performed, if predictable. Two sisters fighting about the dentist and an outfit for a dinner out maintain respectable conversation, but their movements tell a deeper story, resorting to hair pulling and wrestling.

When the fourth woman (disturbingly portrayed through crashing handstands and pummeling elbows by Ariel Cohen) enters the mix, things start to come apart. The work is split into sections of “before” and “after” – characters lying catatonic, slumping in chairs, obsessively sorting socks, slapping themselves uncontrollably; we understand that something big has happened here. Abrams again is able to clearly illustrate the break down of relationships through movement, but the movement vocabulary is so dated that it, unfortunately, removes some of the urgency of the choreography.

In fact the whole work feels a little like a textbook example, circa 1998. It fits together well as dance theater, but, it’s very cohesiveness plus some poor choices undermine what is otherwise an emotionally powerful piece. As complicated as Abrams phrase work gets, she relies on overly simplistic movement and acting to get her through places where we are supposed to empathize with the pain of her characters. At one point, after we know what this “big event” is, Abrams (as Carla) faces the audience and shakes her knee, trembling with wide eyes and dilated pupils. Unfortunately, her acting isn’t enough to pull this off.

That being said, the work does reach out on several levels, finding resonance especially, I would imagine, with women and LGTB communities for it’s fully realized portrayal of female relationships. Whatever problems I find with the work itself…. whateveeeeeer… The real joy is in watching the commitment of these talented performers.

You have plenty of time to catch this show on its extended run, so head to WOW and check it out.

iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Meghan Frederick
Performance: Jen Abrams
Venue: Wow Cafe
Show Date: October 28, 2009

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Announcement: Jen Abrams Dance Performance at Wow Cafe Theater

Jen Abrams Most of This Is True WOW Café Theater 59-61 E. 4th St, 4th Floor (between Bowery and 2nd Ave), F train to 2nd Ave or 6 train to Astor Place  10 shows in 12 days Wed 10/28 8pm; Thurs 10/29 8pm; Fri 10/30 8pm; Sat 10/31 5pm; Sun 11/1 5pm; Mon 11/2 8pm; […]

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