If you’ve ever loved and lost you’ll identify with Robin Lakes’s evening of five pieces, “Before Love Came to Town.” But don’t expect any of that boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl stuff. For one thing, these five dances definitely take the woman’s point of view. For another, Lakes has really messed with that happy-ending formula. The new piece that begins the evening, Moved, reveals a woman (Lakes) agonizing over her failed relationship with a live-in lover and her decision to move out. But the form Lakes gives this crisis isn’t nearly as rational as I make it sound: Lakes holds the sheet covering her sleeping lover between her teeth and forces her breath out almost in a growl; she sings a cappella in a dynamic vibrato how David had a chord to please the Lord; she opens a suitcase and steps into the middle of it, making us feel that cold, empty, transitory place that is every decision to leave the old behind. Of the other four pieces, two come from the 1994 evening-length Mouth: Melissa Thodos’s well-acted solo revealing the hurry and impermanence and dissatisfaction of modern single life, and Ginger Farley and Jeff Carpenter’s intricate, funny, horrifying duet, full of oral playfulness and outrages. The remaining two pieces–the premieres Mystery Dance and For Your Life–fit remarkably well with the others to produce an affecting, sometimes enigmatic evening. The theater-in-the-round where “Before Love Came to Town” will be performed only adds to the roughness of Lakes’s Rough Dance. Friday and Saturday at 8 in the Ethel Barber Theatre of Northwestern University, 1979 South Campus Drive in Evanston; $6-$15. Call 708-491-7282 for tickets and info.

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