Thursday, August 16, 2007

NY Int'l Fringe Festival - Anna & the Annadroids

My third and final review of the NY International Fringe Festival for was of a very interesting show. I was in more of a hurry trying to write this one as opposed to the others because they were trying to get my a press kit (but didn't...) so I didn't write an extended version. Below is the one that will be published (see here).


“Anatomical Scenario is an unconventional dance theater company exploring the art in artificial,” reads the program from the Ohio-based company’s August 15 performances of Anna and the Annadroids: Clone Zone at the Linhart Theatre. Unconventional is an understatement.

The multi-media enhanced dance production follows a narrative of 5 robot girls battling through the videogame inspired world of Anna’s mind (named after company director Anna Sullivan). Supposedly based on psychologist Carl Jung’s psychoanalytical model of the psyche, the scenes resemble those in a mental hospital.

The girls walk around pigeon-toed, twitching and bouncing as the music sings repetitive lyrics like, “Free your addictions” with a video-projected background of a storm of raining pills. In one section the girls run in place before a moving road, similar to the old race car Nintendo games, while a computer generated voice complains about her needs: everything from Prozac and running shoes, to couples therapy, and an internet love match.

Perhaps this is a comment on the overindulgence of society, seeing as Sullivan’s work claims to “explore interior disorders by exaggerating and manifesting them externally. The mission is accomplished through interrogating and critiquing the conventions of a social order that celebrates robotic conformity and idealizes a plastic-souled way of life.” Through the integration of film, dance, and technology generated graphics the show succeeds in making bold statements about humanity and its dysfunctions.

Although the show is extremely entertaining, it is difficult to imagine it being presented in a venue other than the Fringe Festival due to its take on mental illness, innate quirkiness, and near nudity. Sullivan is informative in her visual explanations of psychiatric disorders through video demonstrations of the occurrences in the brains of people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. However after each segment the words pass by sarcastically: “Treatment: Take Drugs.”

The nature of the production calls for dancers to have flawless timing and energy so as not be usurped by the flashy commotion of the background film. They surpass these expectations, remaining fully in character as they demonstrate strength and skill. The choreography is full of angular movements and headstands, lending itself nicely to the music and lyrics.

The technical aspects of the production are outstanding. Elaborate costumes are changed often, while the clown-white makeup and glittery eyelashes remain a constant. The lighting and video create the sense of being enclosed in a videogame. The audio blends well with the action. It is these factors that truly steal the show and make it a must-see for Fringe audiences.

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