Arranger/Choreographer/Director: Derek Van Barham. At: Pride Films and Plays at National Pastime Theater, 941 W. Lawrence Ave., 4th Floor . Tickets: 773-327-7077 or www.nakedjuly.com; $20. Runs through: July 28
It's the fifth time out for National Pastime Theatre's "Naked July: Art Stripped Down" festival, and Pride Films and Plays is back with another largely queer entry.
It's called Kill Your Boyfriends, a world-premiere performance art piece heavy with dance that is arranged, choreographed and directed by Derek Van Barham (and, yes, the show does feature nudity of both sexes, as befits the Naked July festival).
For Kill Your Boyfriends, Barham has compiled a text assemblage drawing from many authors like Sylvia Plath, Richard Siken, and especially Alex Dimitrov, whose quote of "You must kill your boyfriends… You must kill what wants, like death, to keep you" inspired the show's name (but since there are women involved, the title can't help but feel exclusionary).
The various texts, spoken largely by Carmen Molina and Christopher Young as a universal bickering couple, serve as a non-linear framing device for the pure dance pieces featuring the fine movement ensemble of Sarah Goldberg, James Nedrud, Erik Strebig and Karen Vance. So amid the largely petty spoken snipes about bedding, privacy, sleep disorders and bed times, there are some incisively silent and powerful dance pieces that can interpretively communicate relationship issues about loneliness, trust, abuse (both physical and mental) and love all along the sexuality spectrum.
Needless to say, it's the dimly lit dance pieces that ultimately make the show. More so than the spoken parts, the dances seem to take on larger and universal issues ranging from the unconscious state of dreams to the longing and neediness of being in a relationship.
Particularly good is the amazingly limber and heart-wrenching dance work by Strebig and Goldberg. Though paired mostly in same-sex dance formations, Strebig and Goldberg combine to do a show-stopping dance involving an empty frame that suggests how one partner can manipulate the other by controlling the perceptions self-image and self-worth. (This central dance in the hour-long show deserves tremendous applause, though the show's structure really doesn't allow for it.)
When you see how good the dance pieces are, it's a pity that the spoken texts aren't as effective. The extra pop culture references thrown in like name-checking Elton John or Pete Seeger come off as trivial and unnecessary. Young's miscast delivery of the text in particular lacks gravitas or much feeling, especially when compared to his more engaged speaking cohort, Molina. (Young was noticeably slipshod with his memorization of his text on opening night.)
So even if Kill Your Boyfriends isn't entirely an all-around artistic success, the dance parts that work certainly offer moments of reflectivity, introspection and interpretive awareness into the difficulty of relationships and mystery of loveand, yes, all the lovely displayed flesh is a bonus, too.