Jeff McMahon grew up in Los Angeles and now lives in New York, but no matter how clearly he delineates real streets, neighborhoods, and events in his one-man performance piece City of God, somehow his community remains elusive. In his poetic, free-associative text he uses the pronouns “we,” “you,” “they,” “nobody,” and “everybody,” but after a while it’s clear he’s playing tricks on himself and us: no matter what he says, the truth is that he’s trapped in “I,” and nothing–not art, not love–can free him. Bitter, funny, occasionally grandiose and hysterical, City of God seems to trace the movement of the mind itself as McMahon sings, talks, and dances: he moves constantly, and his movements are both liquid and accented, complementing the flow of his talk in gestures just slightly exaggerated and dancerly. He elevates to the level of metaphor the motions of walking to and fro, and by the end, when he recapitulates many of his earlier movements in a dance without words, knitting together the fragments of the piece, we seem finally to see the city of God in all its glory and horror. Though the original music is disappointing–it’s of the new-age, booming, “important” variety–and McMahon’s voice is less than professional, it bears the clear imprint of his feeling: City of God is the heartfelt work of a talented performer exploring a commonly held sense of alienation. Dance Center of Columbia College, 4730 N. Sheridan, 271-7928. March 3 through 5: Thursday-Saturday, 8 PM. $12-$15.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Robert Flynt.