Poste Restante’s Delightful Mixed Media Piece Examines Communication

The winter blues are getting us down and we’re all looking for ways to remind ourselves that spring is on its way. At least, that’s what all my podcasts tell me, and I do everything my podcasts tell me to do. Luckily for us, there’s a wonderfully warm and reinvigorating show called Poste Restante, a mixed-media performance playing through February 16 at The Tank, a nonprofit arts space in the heart of Times Square. Taking its name from the French for a dead letters office where undeliverable mail is kept, Poste Restante is certainly not dead on arrival and it delivers in every way*.

*See what I did there? So so clever.

Bonnie Duncan and Tim Gallagher in Poste Restante
Bonnie Duncan and Tim Gallagher in Poste Restante

Bonnie Duncan and Tim Gallagher, who together form the creative duo They Gotta Be Secret Agents, use their short hour-performance time to examine themes of relationships and missed communications. They rely on lively and entrancing scenes alternating between puppetry, shadow play, dance, video, and acrobatics – everything, frankly, except actual words. Neither of the performers speak a single word through the show, but their set is filled with them. Letters in handwritten envelopes lie strewn across the stage, stacked cardboard delivery boxes are Bonnie and Tim’s main source for props.

The scenes range in content style just about as much as they range in form. There’s a humorous vaudevillian skit about trying to fit a contortionist into a delivery box, a shadow performance about two lonely hearts united through the magic of their own inventions, and a passionate, powerful dance about lovers parting ways. The scenes range from whimsical to evocative, imaginative to hard realism, but they’re all tinged with a tone of melancholia that could also fall under a nostalgic loneliness. A desire to renew personal human interactions in the simple act of writing a letter or sending a package. It looks back on a dying era of handwritten love-notes and care packages as a source of comfort, albeit perhaps an imperfect one, in today’s alienating digital age.

The Secret Agents are at the best when performing their more physically-centered skits. Bonnie and Tim first met as dance partners and decided to expand their mutual interests in storytelling and physicality. Their choreography is simple, yet reliably striking. Each movement or pose brings us closer into their characters’ emotional lives and it was thrilling to see their relationships play out solely through movements. Their dancing and acrobatics are always graceless, yet deliberate, which really makes for entrancing theater.

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Poste Restante plays at The Tank NYC through February 16th. Click here for tickets!

Nutcracker Rouge at Minetta Lane Theatre

It’s holiday season! Which means it’s time to wake up from your Thanksgiving-induced food-comas and go see some theater! And if you’re looking for some holiday-themed cheer, this post is a friendly reminder that the Rockettes aren’t the only ladies in town in short skirts and tights dancing to classic Christmas melodies.

poster-Nutcracker Rouge-w

 Nutcracker Rouge provides a steamy, fresh alternative to the traditional holiday ballet with a lot more sensuous thrills and a lot less clothing. In this version, presented by Company XIV and The Saint at Large, Marie Claire (Laura Careless) is an adolescent girl who is led away from her aristocratic home to the Kingdom of Sweets, an uncanny, sensual world of burlesque dances and other guilty pleasures.

Every act in the Kingdom of Sweets is energetic, exciting, and sexy.  Nutcracker Rouge achieves an opulent and classy decadence through its genre-bending work. The set and costume design by Zane Pihlstrom is essential to setting Nutcracker Rouge‘s beguiling atmosphere. Every glittery crotch piece and bedazzled pastie reveals the rich detail and playful sensuality embedded in the show. Mr. and Mrs. Drosselmeyer (George Takacs and Shelly Watson) have nearly a dozen costume changes, all of which set a vivacious tone for their ensuing acts. These acts also mesmerize with a versatile and seductive cast which includes a soulful singer, circus performers, ballet and contemporary dancers, and instrumentalists. The acts retain parts of Tchaikovsky’s notable original score while adding some new and contemporary numbers (Madonna’s “Material Girl” makes an opportune appearance).

While Nutcracker Rouge is certainly an aesthetically pleasurable experience, it sometimes felt no more engaging than a performance of the classic ballet. Mr. and Mrs. Drosselmeyer act as MC for most of the show, but the bare plot and lackluster writing prevents any connection from actually happening. During intermission, Mrs. Drosselmeyer wandered around the house asking hardly engaging questions like “How do you like the show?” and “What do you think will happen to Marie Claire?”, just so that the show could justify writing “immersive” on its billing. Burlesque is notable for breaking that fourth wall, for engaging the audience in plenty of playful sexual innuendo and often witty banter (anyone who has seen Eager to Lose at Ars Nova knows how much of a difference an engaging MC and audience participation increases the viewer’s investment in the story). If it weren’t for one or two ambitious audience members’ catcalls and exclamations, the house would likely have remained too formally silent for a show that aims to set a sensual and lively environment.

Despite this detachment, Nutcracker Rouge heats up the theatre with a visually sweet and sensually scrumptious show that would make the Sugar Plum Fairy proud.  Catch it at the Minetta Lane Theater through January 5th, Tickets here


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