The Vinegar Works
  • Trey McIntyre
  • The Vinegar Works

“Edward Gorey takes us through the darker parts of our psyche in this really adorable way,” says Boise-based choreographer Trey McIntrye, whose new Harris Theater cocommission, The Vinegar Works, features four vignettes derived from The Gashlycrumb Tinies and other cute and sick Gorey tales.

Pairing ballet with Gorey’s nonsense verse might tickle anyone predisposed to think dance is nonsense anyway, but for those folks, the Trey McIntyre Project will have twice subverted expectations. Not only do the dancers—dressed in frowzy gothic garb and operating surreal puppets—perfectly evoke the bloodless, glum pen-and-ink characters on Gorey’s pages, McIntyre himself ditches a traditional narrative arc in favor of Goreyesque dispirited anticlimaxes—”A bad thing happened; the end.” An absurd running joke asserts throughout that morality is as distasteful as vinegar.

Of course, absurdity was currency for Gorey; he even willed his estate to a foundation for bats. And since there’s no dancing role more absurd than a character with nonfunctional legs, McIntyre’s version of The Beastly Baby would probably make Gorey proudest. Here a dancer costumed as an awful mushy lump, with fat arms and fatter legs and an enormous dirty diaper, continuously skids, tumbles, and careens across the stage, brilliantly maintaining the illusion of an evil baby who can’t walk.

Puppets also feature in The Vinegar Works, which is set to Shostakovich’s Piano Trio in E Minor, performed by the Music Institute of Chicago. On Friday and Saturday the Trey McIntyre Project presents Mercury Half-Life, a 50-minute piece set to music by Queen.

Thu 4/3, 7:30 PM, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, 312-334-7777,, $25-$55.