The Flying Man’s Falling Thoughts

Fortunately this is not a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. In this ambitious piece, four dancer-choreographers–Anthony Gongora, Carrie Hanson, Susan Hoffman, and David Marchant–team up with performance artist Doug Stapleton and composer-vocalist Louise Cloutier on a surreal extravaganza of music, movement, visual sleight of hand, and texts based on the poetry of S.V. Ivankovic. Roughly an hour long, The Flying Man’s Falling Thoughts ranges wide, as wide as a dream, accumulating motifs as it goes: hooded figures who might be threatening or beneficent; suitcases spilling rags, the detritus of existence; umbrellas and raincoats, our flimsy attempts to protect ourselves; a swan that wings its way across the stage or simply rests, preening. Sometimes the piece made me think of journeys, especially Beckettian journeys with no destination. It seems to touch on death but has its humor–especially one section about commercial airline flights (“Anyone wealthier than you is free to board at any time,” a practiced voice intones). The movement is often affecting in subliminally suggestive ways: in my mind the dancers’ legs as they lay on their backs looked like wings, long and delicate as one folded in on the other or rubbed it pensively. In another section, two dancers toss the head of a third back and forth, gently rolling his body between them; it’s playful and tender rather than violent or manipulative, an impression reinforced by the way the dancers switch roles. Tying the whole piece together is Cloutier’s amazing voice, which she employs in folk songs, spirituals, lullabies, and other, less recognizable forms. This is not a piece with a distinct point but a vast field in which to browse. Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 312-902-1500. Opens Friday, March 3, 8 PM. Through March 11: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM. $15.

–Laura Molzahn