First half of ‘Betroffenheit’ (German for ‘consternation’ or ‘distress’): ‘All That Jazz’ experienced as a bad acid trip.
But a wildly entertaining bad acid trip. Suffering from post-traumatic stress, our main character (writer/actor Jonathon Young) is trapped in what looks like an abandoned office basement or disused mental ward. He talks to the electronic machinery, which intones repeated phrases from therapy sessions (“Come to terms,” “Take no action,” “Repeat,” “The show is not a happy event”). Then his psychoses, his weaknesses, his addictions, start piling in, appearing as deranged performers: aggressive tap dancers, show girls and a tango duo, an appealingly fiendish imp clown.
He himself is asked to re-join the show, which he happily does as a dancing, schmoozing host. A sad desperation prevails over all the elastic energy. He’s trapped in the same phrasings, the same moves as his partner. A terrific tiny puppet act ensues. Nightmarish techno music throbs.
This is performance not as self-expression, as ecstatic release or self-discovery. It’s performance as psychological failure, as self-destruction, as a wretched script you can’t escape — in fact, escaping is just another trigger for everything to repeat. It is spellbinding.
Characteristic movement: Choreographer Crystal Pite has her dancers meticulously time their moves to a prerecorded voiceover. At different moments, they rapid-fire stutter-step, herky-jerking back and forth like a video glitch. It’s funny, it’s eruptive, it’s neurosis personified. It’s like the entire show in a jittery nutshell.
Second half of ‘Betroffenheit’: It’s a change of pace — from funny frenzy to desperate collapse. Suffering from multiple personality disorder and a nervous breakdown, Samuel Beckett attempts to express himself through interpretive modern dance.
Translation: a mass melee in a darkened mist, a repetitive, six-dancer collision. Choreographed warfare, at once frantic and futile and beautifully controlled. The walls of the ward dance away. Those intoned phrases make a return. Young and Kidd Pivot’s performers (Bryan Arias, David Raymond, Cindy Salgado, Jermaine Spivey and Tiffany Tregarthen) are relentlessly, unbelievably good.
And the ending is actually touching and human. Without promising much. Imagine.
Friday night, Kidd Pivot repeats everything like some obsessive-compulsive. Go. Enjoy. This show is not a happy event. It is phenomenal.