It was a concept I haven’t come across before, to present an original play alternating with a dance program, both differing visions of the same subject matter. But off the Wall productions, a postage stamp of a company in Carnegie with big visions, did just that.
Intrigued as I was, I was only able to make my way, finally, at the end of run. And why shouldn’t I be interested? Both centered around a strong-willed female writer and the creative process. Needless to say, I was taken in by it all.
OR, came first. Written by Liz Duffy Adams, it was a play built on contrasts, whirling around the life and thoughts of English writer and playwright Aphra Behn, played by Erika Cuenca. She was backed by a wall of doors, which allowed for a fast-paced and quick-witted exchanges. There were just three actors, but Robin Abramson playing famed actress Nell Gwynne and others and Ethan Hova switching between King Charles II and William Scott, it seemed like more. Kudos to director John Shepard, who kept things moving seamlessly and to a talented veteran cast.
Off the Wall’s dance wing, fireWALL dance theater, alternated performances with the theater work, but with a different angle on that theme. Elisa-Marie Alaio and Cuenca (also assistant artistic director of off the WALL) joined together to construct a plot that concentrated more on the creative process of the writer. Called Uproar, the trappings bore a more than a passing resemblance (and rhyming rhythm) to OR, but the characters, danced by four dancers in multiple roles as well, were figments of Alaio’s imagination.
There was a significant improvement over fireWALL’s first performance, On the Rox, last spring. Uproar had more depth to the choreography, which was still athletic, but with more sophisticated phrasing. All in all, that growth whets the appetite for what’s ahead as the company matures.