Dallas — Man up! Real men Shave! Don’t be a D***! A Barbie is not a boy’s toy!
These are a just a few of the societal catchphrases that Danielle Georgiou and her troupe of artistically gifted performers addressed head on in the reprisal of The Show About Men at the Performance Hall at Eastfield College on Friday evening. After receiving rave reviews at the Festival of Independent Theatres in Dallas last summer, Danielle Georgiou Dance Group (DGDG) decided to bring the show back for this limited engagement and with a few production enhancements including two new songs and additional cast members Ruben Carrazana and Nick Leos who fit right in to this wacky boy’s club.
If you have seen any of Georgiou’s work in the last couple of years, including Dirty Filthy Diamonds and NICE, then you know that you aren’t going to just sit and watch passively from the audience. No, you are going to experience the show right alongside the performers thanks to Georgiou’s artistic philosophy which includes immersing the audience into the environment she and the performers have created, while expressing through dance and theater topics that many may find otherwise unapproachable. The Show About Men doesn’t disappoint in this regard.
Throughout the performance, the men relate stories based on their personal experiences, which range from sexuality, complex relationships with other males (fathers/friends/sons), responsibilities of providing for families or being in positions of authority and permission to be vulnerable, in need of love and to be afraid. These personal stories help make the show more accessible and prevent viewers from passing their own judgments as we were completely captivated by the individuals’ words and body language.
Fear is the motivator in the opening segment as William Acker, Colby Calhoun, Ruben Carrazana, Matthew Clark, Curtis Green, Gabriel King and Nick Leos (sadly DGDG conceptual designer Justin Locklear was unable to perform) repeatedly slapp their thighs, chests and heads while chanting phrases like “Fear! Fear of myself! Fear of rejection! Fear of saying the wrong things!” The phrases are shouted with drill sergeant-intensity and are accompanied with militant walking steps and tense posturing. The mood invoked by their minimal clothing (boxers and thermal tank tops, a.k.a. “wife-beaters”), aggressive gesturing and frantic shouting is at first intimidating. But Georgiou and Locklear once again work their magic and right before the tension becomes too overwhelming the performers suddenly yell “bugs!” and start trembling, releasing the built-up tension in the room.
Georgiou also manipulates the venue to aid in her mission to include the audience into the action. The 30 or so audience members were escorted onstage and behind the red curtain where a gritty bar scene awaited us complete with dingy lighting, a variety of mismatched tables and chairs, a long bar to one side, lone chairs and a piano on the other as well as a large hand-written sign welcoming viewers to Dick’s All Night Bar & Karaoke.
As the less-than-90-minute production unfolded the bar was transformed into a sanctuary of sorts for the seven male performers, allowing them to speak freely about what it means to be a man. In a very candid group conversation the men shouted out their answers to the age old question: what makes a man a man? Answers varied from rational to ridiculous such as when a suggestion that men were “handy around the house” turned into “handsy” as Leos groped himself, and some answers were contradictory, such as that men are both knowledgeable and stupid. The conservation ended with a randy song and dance number that had the men performing numerous pelvic thrusts and booty shakes while colorfully describing the male sex organ to a tune resembling The Hokey Pokey, composed by Trey Pendergrass and Locklear.
Another lighthearted group number had the performers standing up against makeshift urinals discussing the deficiencies of men’s restrooms relative to women’s restrooms which ended in the group singing about a “gender neutral bathroom in the sky.” Carrazana’s magnetic personality and awkward coming-of-age stories regarding asking a girl out and proudly sporting a so-called moustache at age 12 also had the audience in stitches. And as the only female in the show, Kayla Anderson did a beautiful job of portraying the various roles women play in a man’s life, including those of wife, mother, friend and lover.
But not every experience ends on a jovial note. While Calhoun serenades us about how he never thought of being a man “until you told me so,” King and Green execute a series of push-and-pull partnering exchanges featuring concaved torso movements, high chest arcs and body dips. Green’s journey to manhood involves joining the army, and he didn’t miss the irony of being a gay soldier in the “don’t ask don’t tell” days who would ultimately win the manly solider of the year award. The other performers' subtle marching steps and pivot turns are done in contingent and round out Green’s tale. King speaks about how he felt like a man after his first physical argument with his father, depicted visually by two performers in the background.
Every artist strives to influence a person’s perception pertaining to a certain topic or theme, but sometimes they miss the mark. Still, DGDG succeeds in altering the audiences’ perception of what society deems to be manly behavior by reminding us, through Pendergrass’ monologue near the end, that we are all human and therefore should be allowed to express all the emotions that come with that privilege freely and without judgment.
You can catch The Show About Men one last time tonight at 8 p.m. at the Performance Hall at Eastfield College.
» Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at http://www.kddance.wordpress.com