It’s going to be quite a challenge to encapsulate the performances over two days of the Ringling International Arts Festival into one handy summary, but here goes.
First up for me on Friday was the John Jasperse Company’s presentation of Magic, Mystery and other mundane events, and somewhat mystifying it was, too. Program notes for this performance referred to the viewer needing to decide what was real and what was illusion; although there were some entertaining moments, both spoken and danced, the whole didn’t seem to add up to much of anything. So I’m going to skate right over it and move on to jazz with singer-bassist Kate Davis.
Young and talented (and seemingly a bit shy), Davis is an appealing performer who started off her concert with that old standard I’ll Take Romance, and then proceeded to present us with a nice package of songs related to love, ranging from Little Girl Blue to Blues in the Night to, in a departure from a lineup of composers long dead, Rufus Wainwright’s Leaving for Paris–a lovely song that was probably new to most of the audience and which she performed with feeling. Davis has a sure hand with her instrument and a voice suited to jazz; it will be interesting to see her grow into a more smoky tone, if she so desires. (She’s only 20 now.)
I was looking forward to the next program on my playbill, the premiere of a new play, Hurricane, by Pulitzer Prize winner (and Florida-based playwright) Nilo Cruz. Set on a Caribbean island during and following a big storm, the work as presented has just three characters: a missionary (played by Paul Whitworth), his native-born wife (Kim Brockington) and his adopted son (Carlo Alban).
The aftermath of the storm (impressively made real by scenic and lighting magic) leaves the missionary with a form of amnesia, and he comes to believe that somewhere inside him lurks the identity of a young woman named Andrea. Why can’t he be both people, he wonders, especially since he remembers next to nothing of his own past. “How you you recognize yourself?” he asks his wife and son, and it’s a question that appears to be crucial to Cruz’s concept. But in this production, at least, that concept still feels that it needs to be fleshed out. And it didn’t help that Hurricane started off at an intensity level its actors and director Michael Donald Edwards never varied; most dialogue was spoken at fever pitch, and that same delivery grew wearing. Here’s hoping that Cruz receives enough feedback from the performance to further hone the play, which could be intriguing in time.
Saturday (an absolutely lovely day on the Ringling museum grounds, by the way) was a day of delight, with the Forman Brothers’ presentation of Opera Baroque in the confines of the Circus Museum–a fitting site, since surrounded by old circus wagons is just where the Formans’ traveling band of puppeteers seemed to belong. Engaging from the outset (the performers greeted audience members as they entered and later made a show of polishing guests’ eyeglasses, checking their watches, and explaining just what they were about to see, since the lyrics were all in Czech), the three performers, aided by a musician and technical help, put on a diverting show. Loosely based on a Czech opera about a pair of stonemasons, an angry homeowner and a faulty chimney, the piece is enhanced by the Formans’ own comedic flair as three little mischief makers cause trouble and are soon–and very physically–punished for it. A nice treat for a Saturday afternoon.
And Saturday night ended well, too, first with a bit of jazz on the bayfront (the new Bolger Campiello beside Ca’ d’Zan is definitely worth a visit) and secondly with an exhilarating performance of Loan Sharking by the Rubberbandance Group–aptly named, as the pieces in their dance program all reflected an amazing degree of elasticity. To music ranging from classical to jazz to electronic, the seven dancers (greatly aided here by lighting and sound effects) swiftly, smoothly and sometimes unbelievably wound and rewound their bodies in combinations including duets, trios and ensembles. There were partnerings that seemed to deal with the torment of both holding on and letting go in the male-female dance of love, but you didn’t have to look for any subtext to admire the creativity and assurance behind the company’s moves, choreographed by co-artistic director Victor Quijada. What a way to end the festival weekend. Do we really have to wait until next year for more?