Curtain Calls

Dog Explosion & Home Free
Iambe's Bones Theatre Company presents a subversive program of “family” one-acts. In Sean Clark's Dog Explosion, boots are made for walking, but genes for staying put. Once upon a time young Naomi McCall (Jana Goerlitz) got a brief taste of the Big Easy. But now she's stuck in rural Missouri, toting a briefcase full of Budweiser home from her job at the convenience store. See, Naomi's saddled with a family going nowhere even faster than she is: Little brother Matt (Rick Paxson) is no smarter than the hound dog he just blew to the Great Beyond; sister Charlotte (Suze Allen) is too full of the Holy Ghost to have earthly thoughts of her own; and Mama (Lee Brady), who's looked dead for some three years now, just met her maker, thanks to Matt's half-wit scheme to ease his pooch's pain. As hick slapstick, Dog gets a lot of mileage out of Charles Kading's terrific set, a backroad abode made more humble by a wayward stick of dynamite. There's more of the playwright's heart, however, in the wistful conclusion than in the episodic belly laughs along the way; co-directors Suze Allen and Michael Bellino seem more at home striking a gentle note of resurrection than hitching up their broad comic suspenders. Lanford Wilson's succinct and superior Home Free, directed by Allen, is a surprising exercise in amniotic absurdism. The action revolves around Lawrence and Joanna Brown (Paxson and Goerlitz), a couple of spouse-siblings who are a few seats shy of a Ferris wheel. While the incestuous innocents prattle on about her pregnancy, his picture book, their pair of invisible children and the perils of the world outside their sanctuary, this Home becomes increasingly subtle and schizophrenic, a womb with a view of the stars and an inescapable Pandora's box. Goerlitz, the champagne of the sixpack Dog Explosion, sparkles like an astral projection here; underutilized in the evening's front half, Paxson becomes a perversely potent symbol, an agoraphobic “Why” chromosome. Plays Thurs-Sun 8 pm (Dog) and 9:15 pm (Home); ends 3/4. Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa, S.F. $12 ($9/$6 separately), 821-2255.

William O. Goggins

This epic work by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company creates a communal context for the most solitary of acts: facing death. The movement and score (which incorporates spoken testimonies) has its origins in the “Survival Workshops” held by the company for the terminally ill. The group creates a supportive presence, as dancer after dancer breaks into a solo spotlight to make stark, often lonely gestures — slowly reaching hands, strangely innocent skipping. A man, held in the arms of another man, arabesques his leg behind him and quietly lets his head drop back into his own cupped hand. The most sophisticated vocabulary in Still/Here evolves from the visual elements added by Gretchen Bender. Shifting video screens drop from above, rotate, then grow larger and smaller. Human images transmute into water or disperse into shreds. Faces appear on the screen as photographs, then come alive in subtle, unexpected ways as if to say: “Don't create a memorial for me yet.” After the authentic, stripped-down quality of the first half (romantically scored by Kenneth Frazelle, with singing by Odetta), the second segment of the dance charges with a haunted energy. Both Jones' choreography and the music by Vernon Reid becomes longer-phrased and more rhythmic. “Tell me how to fight this disease,” says a vibrant voice that mixes back and forth with the electric guitar. Critics (such as Arlene Croce, who stirred up controversy with a venomous article on Jones in the New Yorker last December) often see urgent social content as compromising high artistic values, but Jones proves the two can coexist. Still/Here played a sold-out run Feb. 24-26 in Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley.

Katia Noyes

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