Stage

The problem with the show -- which played for only three nights at Solo Mio, and now goes on tour -- is that it has almost no structure; the only way you know Borrus isn't about to finish, at any given point, is that she hasn't reached the end of her year yet. The material stays un-unified and raw; sometimes it can't help lagging. But keeping a sentimental tribute from cloying is no easy trick, and Borrus has created six vividly living characters.

-- Michael Scott Moore

Dreamy
In Her Dreams. Lizz Roman & Dancers. Music by Eleni Karaindrou, Kalonica McQuestion, Ornette Coleman, and Thelonious Monk. Sound design by Jerry Linder. Film by Kevin Cunningham. At ODC/S.F. Theater at the Performance Gallery, 3153 17th St. (at South Van Ness), Sept. 26-28 and Oct. 3-5. Call 863-9834.

Night Stories: The Eva Luna Project, First Cycle. Della Davidson Dance Theater. Music by Richard Marriott, performed by the Club Foot Ensemble. At Theater Artaud, 450 Florida (at 17th Street), Sept. 25-28. Call 621-7797.

Lizz Roman & Dancers' In Her Dreams begins when the dancers fall asleep. "With each count ... your body will become even ... more ... relaxed," says the taped voice of a mesmerist; an 8mm film of dancers Chris Black and Erin Stuart sleeping in a billow of white sheets whirs on the theater lobby's white brick wall; and dancers all around us (Lucy Epstein, Knute, Grace Kong, Jenny McAllister, Elizabeth Solomon) curl into buds.

As the dancers fall asleep, two of them remind us they're also descending into performance. The real life Black and Stuart enter and unfurl in the now-empty celluloid bed where their filmic counterparts just were. Drifting off too, they become their own image -- and mark the performance's beginning. Dreams begins so easefully that, without thinking, we wander into its frame and watch with a dreamer's absorption, first in the lobby and then later, once we're beckoned, in the theater proper.

To invoke its subject -- the edge of sleep and dream where nighttime ruminations occupy daily haunts -- the dance gravitates toward thresholds: doorways, window ledges, beds, and the periphery of our vision. Expansive dances spread into open space; smaller ones seize obscure corners. Like dream pastiche, at any one moment there's more going on -- and in more places -- than we take in. In the theater, a trio dances on three raked beds. One at a time, the dancers melt to the first bed's base and, in a sudden jolt of near-waking, spring off their backs and onto the next bed, rolling into sleeping arms. Gaining momentum, they cartwheel from bed to bed, briefly relaxing in someone's embrace. Meanwhile, other dancers creep somnolently along a far wall.

Disrupting again and again its prevailing sensual slowness -- with movement suddenly jerked awake, backward-looping film, dancers' barely audible mutterings, and the urban sounds of Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, and car horns -- Dreams shows us minds moving from one state to another, driven by stimuli both inside and out. With its surroundings absorbed in it, the dance suggests we are not just interrupted by the bleeps and blares of daily experience but infused with them. Dreams makes visible the dark interiors of dream and sleep; it also reveals their daily light.

In Her Dreams is a brave dance: Roman took something so common that it asks for nothing and pursued it to its end. While the principle she's plumbed -- find what interests you and follow it -- is basic to creating art, she adheres to it with exceptional tenacity. The evening I attended, 30 people showed up for this sleepy and engrossing work. By contrast, Della Davidson's aimless and offensive Night Stories played at Theater Artaud late last month to hundreds of people. The dance takes Isabel Allende's best-seller as its source. They are good stories, sure, but they're so self-evidently theatrical that choosing them risked little -- and Davidson risked even less by transforming them into dull pornography.

Night Stories felt like one of those high-stakes parties where, terrified, people decompose into cliches. Most of Davidson's women were listless dolls, her men stupid hunks. If there had been as much dancing as there was posing, strutting, and stripping, the dancers might have had a chance to break loose from stereotype. As it was, every time the cast members stripped down to their Calvin Klein underwear -- they strip and get dressed and then strip and get dressed again what feels like dozens of times -- we were reminded that we knew nothing about them. It was like a miserable one-night stand where you find yourself asking, "Who is this person?" Though Night Stories claims to be a kind of dreamscape, it had little of the interiority we project onto the surface of our dreams. Naked, the dancers revealed nothing. An elaborate production with a terrific score, excellent actors, sumptuous costumes, and well-trained dancers, the work only flicked at the skin of night's stories.

-- Apollinaire Scherr

The Message
Pentecost. By David Edgar. Directed by Tony Taccone. Starring Mary Shultz, J. Michael Flynn, Frank Corrado, and Lise Bruneau. At Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck) in Berkeley, through Oct. 31. Call (510) 845-4700.

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