Review of S/He Loves Me … S/He Loves Me Not

Review of S/He Loves Me ... S/He Loves Me Not-attachment0

Ah, Love…Can anything new be said about it? From Sappho to Anna Karenina to the latest Hollywood schlockfest — surely we’ve just about covered it by now? And yet, even if the new stories turn out to be just the old ones reloaded, they still hold our attention and delight us as if they were truly revelatory. In the words of the anonymous sage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Valentine’s Day is, of course, the ideal occasion to revisit these familiar human dramas, and local choreographer/dancer Kathy Meyers has risen impressively to the task. Apparently she has strong personal reasons for this, the most important being one Tom Leiner, a local musician of note and Meyer’s fiancé.

S/He Loves Me…S/He Loves Me Not is an evening-length performance of surprising variety, in which Meyers and Leiner have summoned their friends and collaborators to present original works on the theme of Love. On the musical side, Leiner offers not only his own talents on voice and guitar, but those of singers Crystal Bray, Kat Williams and Annie Lalley, as well as of percussionist River Guerguerian and violinist Joel Ebel. Meyers’s own company, Moving Women, a mainstay of Asheville’s modern dance scene, serves up the choreography with a little help from special guests dancers Kathleen Hahn, Holly Mason and Erik Moellering, as well as performance artists Claire Barratt and Julie Gillum. This is an impressive line-up of local artists, and the result is good entertainment.

Hands-down the high point of the show is “Skin,” a simple and gorgeous duet between Guerguerian and Mason, who are married. While Mason may not be the strongest dancer in the show, and her husband is apparently no dancer at all, the connection between them on stage is at once powerful and tender — in a way one imagines it would be difficult to fake. Guerguerian plays a massive hand-held drum, from which he evokes an astonishing variety of sounds, while at the same moving it through the air like a strange puppet. Mason at first merely responds to the rhythms, sometimes bearing Guerguerian’s weight and sometimes being borne by him, until eventually the two meet over the drum as if over a small round table or altar. This last image went through the audience like a sea-swell, and was the perfect resolution to the piece. Dance has rarely moved me the way this piece did.

But the show offered many other delights as well — in particular a series of vignettes choreographed by Meyers and performed by Erik Moellering and Kathleen Hahn. Moellering and Hahn portray a couple at various stages of their relationship (from “Attraction” to “Commitment”), and they’re both fantastically funny and skillful performers. Along the way, Meyers herself performs “Ray of Hope” with longtime collaborator and fellow Moving Women member Jenni Cockrell — a lovely duet about friendship.

It’s ambitious — and risky — to put musicians and dancers onstage together. The result is too often to divide the audience’s focus, and S/He Loves Me … S/He Loves Me Not does not entirely escape this fate. Why is it that musicians are so irresistible to watch — even for people who are not musical themselves? Is it the performer’s trance-like concentration? Or is it the interest of trying to match what one hears with the minute technical gestures of playing an instrument? In any event, the staging of S/He Loves Me … S/He Loves Me Not didn’t exactly help, and too often I found myself watching the musicians rather than the dancers. This was at least in part also due to the venue itself: the Masonic Temple is simply not designed for theatrical performances of any but the most traditional kind, and poor lighting only exacerbates the problem.

And yet, it was a sold-out house, and the audience left happy. Above all, one left with a richer sense of the depth of talent in this town, and of the exciting things that can happen when people like Meyers and Leiner come along with an ambitious idea for bringing artists together.     

 

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8 thoughts on “Review of S/He Loves Me … S/He Loves Me Not

  1. AVLPhotography

    Bravo to the cast and crew of S/he Loves Me S/he Loves Me Not. Although the big crowd was a bit claustrophibic for my tastes, I found the staging emotional and unique. The use of the stage, the lighting and the costumes were excellent, and I loved watching the dancers and the musicians play off each other live. I don’t know if I agree with the reviewer about the distraction of the musicians: clearly the event was intended as a blending of music and dance – inspired by the romance of Kathy and Tom – not an occasion for the musicians to be ignored in the corner.

    Overall a great show, I hope Ms. Meyers makes it an annual event in perhaps a bigger stage next time.

  2. Gladys

    I was very impressed with the show… didn’t think the lighting was poor at all and I enjoyed watching the dancers and the musicians interact. Thank you Moving Women for bringing experimental modern dance to Asheville… more shows like this please!

  3. Jon Davis

    Yikes! “Poor lighting”. I might consider it poor reviewing that the reviewer did not go into the details of the technical elements involved in the show. I did not light this show, but I’m an LD for other productions in WNC and thought the designer did an admirable job with limited options.

    Delivering a sweeping statement such as “poor lighting” should be as unacceptable as “poor music” or “poor dancing” coming from a reviewer. For the sake of designers everywhere, I think Sightlines reviewers should be expected to examine the artistic decisions made by the creative team of a show, and seriously consider elements such as color, form, angle, silhouette and mood.

    It does nothing for the tech artists of WNC if our reviewers are incapable or unwilling to review technical elements with the same articulation and care they do the performers.

    JD

  4. Sharkbear.org

    I may be being an optimist, but I decided to err on the side of the reviewer since there was no specific designer mentioned and assume they meant the lighting limitations of the space. That seemed more of an acceptable statement and almost a necessity to take into account when reviewing the lighting in most of the venues in town.
    I entirely agree with the Davis sentiment, however, but I attribute it more to the sightlines critic pool with their varied backgrounds still having a few gaps in their collective skill set. The most glaring of these holes, I will agree, is a shortcoming in comprehensive understanding of theatrical design and form. The review pool apparently has some restructuring in the near future which this site hints at, so who knows what the future holds? Personally, I think tech elements are a bit used to flying under the radar in regional theatre, but maybe a change would be interesting.

  5. John Crutchfield

    Mr. Davis: if you read carefully, you’ll be apt to find that I mention “poor lighting” in the context of discussing the limitations of the space itself. In fact I spoke with the lighting designer after the show, and feel confident he did the best he could with what he had. As for your dissatisfaction with Sightlines in general on this count, I can only remind you that the technical aspects of theatre rarely get much more than a mention in any reviews aimed at a wide readership. The irony of your complaint is that my colleagues and I actually make a conscious effort to address the technical side in every review–because as practicing theatre artists ourselves, we know how essential it is. If one rarely makes specific mention of color, form, angle, silhouette, types of lighting instruments, gels, gobos, etc., it is because these fall outside the purview of what is likely to interest a general readership. Sad, perhaps, but true.

  6. Michael Lilly

    Well,actually John, Sunday’s Asheville-Citizen Times review of NC Stage’s Boeing, Boeing by Jim Cavener went into great detail about Dennis Mauldin’s wonderful set that completely creates the world required to launch the show into hilarious hyper space. I suspect that there were more than a few people who were pretty pleased to know that in addition to seeing some terrific actors they would also be walking into a transformed performance space. Cavener also praised, deservedly, the Parkway Playhouse set for Pride and Prejudice (last summer). On another note, I found your comment about putting musicians on stage with dancers (performers)as potentially dangerous per the focus to be completely ridiculous. There is not enough room here to list the number of hugely successful musical productions that have done just that and run for years and had subsequent productions all over the world.

  7. John Crutchfield

    Mr. Lilly: You too I would urge to read a bit more carefully. I did not say (because I do not believe) that live music cannot happily coexist with other kinds of performance on stage. In fact, I’ve seen it happen, and I love it when it does. No, what I said is that it’s “risky,” due to issues of focus. For the vast number of successes you could list, and which I might agree on, one could list failures to match. But that’s true of anything worth attempting, don’t you think?

  8. A. Wengrow

    As an editor of a magazine that covers theatre design, I agree with Mr. Davis that design – setting, lighting, costuming, sound – do not get the attention from reviewers that playwriting, acting and directing do. However, as one of those general readers that Mr. Crutchfield refers to, I agree that detailed, technical discussions of design are mainly of interest to the designers and those involved with a production. Ben Brantley (and others) reviewing for The New York Times rarely give designers more than a sentence or two. It’s welcome, however, when they do. Does Ken Hanke ordinarily have much to say about movie production design and costume design? Is there a need for theatre design artists in Asheville to get more informed and more extensive reviews of their work?

    Mr. Davis and Mr. Crutchfield raise important issues. Who are reviewers in Mountain Xpress writing for? The theatre practitioners involved in the production? The general reader who might decide to go see the production? Do artists pay attention to reviewers? Do audiences pay attention to reviewers? What kind of background in the art does a reviewer need to write about it?

    I’ll be examining these and other issues when I moderate a panel on “Writing About Art” for the Black Mountain College Museum on March 20. The Xpress’s art reviewer Ursula Gullow, along with writers from the Winston-Salem Journal and Art Papers in Atlanta, will be giving their insights. I hope the discussion will be of use to theatre artists as well as visual artists (and arts writers and arts editors). I’d welcome participation from some of the frequent commenters here – Sharkbear.org, Avid Dramatist, Harrycarrieokie, Estella Banks, Dramaturg, visitingartist, zomBgrl, young twist, et al – whose lively opinions I’ve enjoyed.

    Arnold Wengrow
    Contributing Editor
    Theatre Design and Technology
    The Journal of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology

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