KT Niehoff/Lingo Productions’ latest show, “Collision Theory: The Finale,” is the last installment in a yearlong series of events that have included pen-pal exchanges, a pop-up art exhibit, a communal meal, a brief film program, a fashion show and “a long, loose night of unfettered desire and primal delight” dubbed “Raucous Bacchus.” The idea behind it all was to create a far greater intimacy between performers and audience members than usually occurs.
“My hope,” Niehoff writes in her “Finale” artist’s note, “was that by the end, the performers would know the audience by name (or at least by face) and the collective memories cultivated along the way would create a subtext of belonging.”
Not everyone, of course, has time to devote to one artist’s multiple events when there’s so much else going on in this art-crazed town. And why, exactly, does Niehoff want to get on such intimate terms with her audience? What’s the advantage, for an audience, of “belonging” rather than watching absorbedly? She doesn’t really say.
Nevertheless, glimpses of her elaborate multimedia odyssey promised a marvel or two for this finale: fantastical costumes, for one thing, going by the films and photographs, and lively flirtation with exhibitionist urges, going by the letters. (“I haven’t felt, in a long time, like the kind of sloppy I like to feel. A little bit messy, but in the sexiest, most productive of ways….”)
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Lingo’s “Finale” delivers some gorgeously spacey songs, some willowy/acrobatic dance … and some very vague intentions. Quite a bit of that pen-pal correspondence turns up in it. The fantastical film costumes, however, are nowhere to be seen.
Dancers perform mostly on a square white mat in the center of the theater, surrounded by the audience on four sides. But they’re far from confined to that mat. Sturdy elevated platforms in the corners of the theater accommodate much of their action. They also prowl between seat-rows, occasionally carrying out precisely choreographed actions there.
The greatest pleasure comes when they serve up swivelly dance moves in plain view. Sean Tomerlin, a sort of tall, slinky faun, has some great bendy moments in duet with Emily Sferra. Markeith Wiley and Jul Kostelancik also have a canny, limber, taffylike way with each other.
Evan Merryman Ritter’s light design, always on the move, cannily shifts focus from one part of the theater to another, helping to keep the fourth wall permeable. The music likewise seems to shift the shape of the room, as it phases from one trance-inducing tune to the next.
Niehoff and her collaborator Ivory Smith wrote the music and handle the vocals, and in their slow, dreamy, harmonizing techno-pop way, they couldn’t be more seductive. I’d happily load their songs on my iPod and hang their surreal publicity photos on my wall. But what does it all add up to?
Niehoff, in an interview on OtB’s website, gives the game away when she admits, “Well it’s a confusing mess, is what it is. … Everything’s supposed to connect and it’s not! It’s not connecting!”
Still, it was a pretty enough mess to get a standing ovation on Thursday night.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org