Hip Shot: ‘Elephant’
1013 7th Street NW
Friday, July 16 at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 24 at 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 25 at 11:00 a.m.
They Say: "We won't ignore you. We have a relationship. We are powerful. Sentimental. We transgress, practicing and perceiving agression. We are you, and we are alien with all the potential to connect. Cryptic, valuable, subtle. We are elephants, huge and hidden."
Anns Take: Lights up. We watch for an uncomfortably long time as three women stand naked, palms open, moving only the corners of their mouths into an occasional smirk. Standing evolves to walking and searching and then some crawling, each set solely to the humming of the lights above. All of these simple elements, and the unending time it takes to perform them, could make you search for the nearest exit. (Maybe theres still time to catch that improv comedy show receiving rave reviews.) But, what you must trust is that this seemingly pretentious opening section sets up choreographer Kelly Bond perfectly to crash through the famous fourth wall, pull the piece out of the performance art doldrums, and coerce the audience to accept the performers as humans accessible in the space.
The piece expertly threads a variety of concepts throughout its 40-plus minutes. At times the three women stare back like caged animals, perhaps hoping well throw them a banana, or quietly giggle, building to cathartic chortles by all in the room. But, they engage most deeply when they converse verbally with the viewers. While it is not new for performers to address the audience directly, Bond cleverly reaches out to her audience and employs innovative ways for the audience to reach in. The thrust stage aids this effort, allowing us to watch the reactions of our fellow audience members. Are we really going to participate in this?, we ask one another with our eyes. That guy over there complied with her request. All right, Ill do it too.
Elephant inspires herd mentality at its best.
In case youre wondering, you are not going to have to shout out hilarious scenarios for the dancers to act out, nor are you asked to strip down and join them on stage. But, Elephant leaves open the possibility that maybe you can. The performers pushed our boundaries as an audience, but we never really pushed back. We were, as the women would goad, polite spectators. Im tempted to go back again to see how a different audience participates in Bonds work.
I would have liked to see Bond explore her ideas about presence a little more fully (and maybe for a little longer), thus bringing the piece to a more satisfying end. Perhaps she will expand the piece in a future restaging. On a technical note, it was often difficult to hear the performers speak. The guy sitting behind me had to crawl through a sea of church pews, hand cupped around his ear, to get a better listen.
Full disclosure: You have to indulge the performers a bit as they build to the payoff moments, which takes some concentration. Its also a really, really naked piece. If either of those things are not your cup of tea, you probably wont want to buy a ticket. But, then again, in the spirit of Fringe, maybe you should try a little Chai instead of your usual Earl Grey.
See it: You should see it.
Skip it: Dont skip it.