Saturday, January 6, 2007

Review - Nutcracker: Rated R (Angela Harriell and Theater for the New City)

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

There are those who will avoid Nutcracker: Rated R based on the title, assuming that this is a snarky parody of the beloved Christmas ballet. The truth of the matter, however, is that Angela Harriell has created a unique and intriguing work that is at once an elegant homage to Tchaikovsky’s original, a sly send up of New York in the 1980s and today, and a showcase for her considerable talents as a choreographer and dramatist and her cast as dancers and actors.

In this version of the Nutcracker, Clara (Juliana Smith) is a rebellious teen attending a Christmas party with her family. Her strange uncle Drosselmeyer (David F. Slone, Esq.) gives her, not a nutcracker, but an album by an androgynous singer from the ‘80s called Firecrotch. Left behind by the drunken partygoers, Clara falls asleep in the restaurant and sees the battle between the Rats (in this version, very sexy rats) and the suited and cellphoned Corporate Soldiers.

Where Tchaikovsky has Clara dance with her nutcracker, Harriell has her dance with the Firecrotch Record, using some very amusing choreography. Imagine how a record would move and you’ll get a sense of it. Drosselmeyer’s record is, of course, magic, and it sends her back in time to New York in the ‘80s. It’s there that Harriell shines as a choreographer, weaving a Spanish block party, Chinese delivery people, strippers, coke addicts, and even street people into amazing dance numbers. Two pieces in particular were spectacular: The Blow Fairies, which showed the highs and lows of cocaine addiction; and Derelicts, a sublime dance featuring two homeless people in Central Park. Eventually, Drosselmeyer shows Clara her parents in their youth and takes her to The Stall Club where she finally gets to meet her idol, Firecrotch.

This remarkable show features a talented ensemble of dancers and actors, all of whom, with the exception of Slone, play multiple roles. Of particular note are Amber Shirley, a beautiful and athletic dancer who plays the Rat Queen, Jesus Chapa-Malacara, who is outstanding in both Derelicts and The Blow Fairies, Clare Tobin, as the Blow Queen, and Joseph Schles, who is amusing as hell as a Chinese delivery boy in Race of the Dragons. The cast also includes Gregory Dubin, Christopher L. Dunston, Christina Johnson, Kimberly Lantz, Kate Lawrence, Adam Pellegrine, Renee Scalise, and Emma Stein.

Hopefully, this is not the last we’ll see of Nutcracker: Rated R.

Choreographed by Angela Harriell

Theater for the New City
155 First Avenue