A short “Queue” long on imagination
No one can drive and text, except perhaps David Bowie’s alien. But texting and walking? How about texting and dancing?
When Chicago-based dance company Lucky Plush begins their performance of The Queue, they prove it’s possible not only to text and walk but also to perform that walking with comedic élan and a certain amount of Busby Berkeley precision.
Lucky Plush founder/director Julia Rhoads and collaborator Leslie Danzig have seven of the company’s dancers circling each other at an imaginary airport. There are no sets, except for the occasional chair and a simple plastic strip that travels back and forth across the stage in imitation of those interminably annoying conveyor belts that bear clothes, shoes, keys, laptops and carry-ons through the dark cave of TSA’s x-ray security.
Upstage and in the background the keyboards and drums duo, The Claudettes, provides a hard driving and sassy accompaniment. It’s all minimal, meticulous and amusing.
What is it about airports? Could they be the most emblematic event for contradiction in our culture: where for two hours we queue, wait, strip down and perform any number of passing and meaningless interactions so that at the end of it all we are confined, nay, immobilized, in seats for the duration of a “flight”. Isn’t this antithetical to dance, with its enduring connection to abandon, physical prowess and soulful expression? Perhaps so, but Lucky Plush sidesteps the contradiction through its humorous and sly combination of theater and dance.
These dancers talk, and as they do improbable stories unfold. There is the Cuban courier bearing a letter to someone’s dying uncle. There is a young woman trying to smuggle her 3 ounces of aromatherapy liquid in a 4-oz bottle onto the flight. There is the young woman who can’t decide which pair of shoes to wear to her rich relative’s funeral, the uncle who isn’t quite dead yet. There is the law student who is traveling with the shoe lady to Barcelona (why not?). There is the gay couple celebrating their honeymoon, until one of them gets an email from a distant relative, who is dying in Barcelona. Eventually, there are lots of dying uncles to be accounted for, and they all seem to live in Barcelona.
In between these chaotic but somehow connected bits of lives, the dancers move beautifully, athletically and in equally improbable and choreographed configurations.
Wait a second! The aromatherapy girl seems to have fallen in love with the Cuban courier. And the gay guy, the one whose uncle isn’t dying, decides if his husband is going to put his dying distant relative before the delights of their honeymoon, then he’s out of here. He calls the hotel and asks for a room with one twin bed. And the young woman who keeps calling the courier, who by the way is carrying her letter, seems to be sitting on a chair to the side of the stage, watching the action. Someone has lost her shoes, all of them.
Somewhere in there The Claudettes decided to take a break. Oh yeah.
Will it all resolve once everyone finally sorts out all the connections and the plane takes off to land in Barcelona eight hours later? Only the hospitalized uncle will know for sure.
What a wonderful, improbable, brilliantly timed piece of theater. And how smart of ODC Theater to provide this fresh and talented company with an open stage and an open-minded and appreciative audience. Kudos to all.
– Jaime Robles
Photo: The Chicago-based Lucky Plush in “The Queue”. Photo by Benjamin Wardell.