WASTED: A BRIEF HISTORY OF GARBAGE
at David Puszh Dance Studio
Wasted: A Brief History of Garbage, a half-hour performance work incorporating dance, mime, and installation elements, is topical, politically correct, and utterly unaffecting. If it weren’t for the performers’ deadly earnestness and sophomoric intensity, you’d think the performance itself was meant to be garbage.
Wasted begins with Abiogenesis director Angela Allyn performing a spoken and danced prologue, a factual recital of acres, tons, and viruses accompanied by relaxed, flowing movement punctuated with short, chopped hand gestures. The movement is unrelievedly pretty; the text dire. Allyn addresses the audience directly, not in the straightforward manner the text suggests, but with the arch self-consciousness of a comic. She is conspiratorial, coy; stops to ask “Are you feeling guilty yet?” She reappears, dressed and hooded in black, to introduce the next six sections: displaying hand-lettered signs with section titles, adding more rubbish to the stage, and sometimes miming poorly realized characters.
In “Agrarian People,” eight dancers enter one by one, each carrying a large bare branch partially wrapped in white. They plant the branches, step and lunge; their wrists circle. The movement–here and throughout the piece–is either facile or predictable: as they form a chorus line of stepping, bending, stepping, and arching, you know that they will soon erupt in a folkish stomp; when they bend over and pluck at the floor with their fingers, the reference is obvious. Some wear warm earth-toned unitards; others, unitards in the bright colors of bicycle shorts: our idyllic, primeval past in glistening spandex.
In “Using the Forest,” the dancers wear crowns of shiny fake leaves (plastic? silk?) and baby blue facial makeup with accents of bright oranges and golds. They snake across the stage, arms waving; they gather in a clump at center stage, bend and wave. The villain, wearing a gray suit and brightly colored hard hat, runs from dancer to dancer; screaming a guttural monotone, he thrusts his rigid forearms and flat hands at their torsos again and again. They grimace and fall. This section is as subtly suggestive as a television game show: “Trees. Uh, uh . . . a chain saw. Oh, I got it! The decimation of the rain forest!”
An idealized past returns in “Things That We Throw Away.” Two dancers recite lists of ancient garbage–bronze shields, papyrus manuscripts–while executing pretty poses and sweeping gestures. Gradually the lists become more current, following the Walkman into the present day; the movement is transformed into a start-and-stop, joint-by-joint study in mechanical motion–just to make sure we get the point. The section closes with the performance’s most interesting image: a dancer stuffed and tied into a brown garbage bag, slowly somersaulting offstage, voice muffled in the rustling plastic.
“The Average Consumer” lurches into precious camp. Four blobs swathed in bridal colors, their costumes hung with unrecyclable bits and topped with masks of bright Marilyn Monroe lips, stomp and hop to the beat of a rock score. They stuff themselves with litter, only to regurgitate it over the fifth performer, the dancer guilty of sharing her plastic-encased cheese and crackers with the audience moments before. “Garbage Consumes Us” features a shuffling herd dressed in more garbage bags, and one characterization carefully crafted and presented without affectation: a shivery bag lady (Denise Klibanov) carefully spreading her garbage bag to cover her legs and timorously clutching her Cheerios boxes.
“New Age Garbage” cloaks the stage in waves of hideous, fetid smoke;the stuff rises and falls, changing from gray wisps to a brown blanket. Three figures in white toxic-cleanup suits emerge from the gloom, raise their black-gloved hands, and circle slowly. The image–a postapocalypse folk dance–is shattered when the dancers walk downstage to point their fingers at the audience. Again, just to make sure we get the point.
Obviously everyone in the audience did: clearly, Wasted is preaching to the converted. And isn’t that time wasted?
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/E. Donahue.