A very earthy indie Riverwest feel greets audiences on the walk through a curtain of plastic into 53212 Presents’ I’m a Father Under Construction. Beautiful live acoustic alt-pop plays as the sound of traffic on Center Street rolls in from just outside the second floor space above Company Brewing on Center Street. Nerissa Eichinger’s set is a stylized classic blueprint of the front of a residential home with picket fencing covering the stage floor and scenic flats which are rolled around in the course of the show.
Kirk R. Thomsen directs a concise, little seven-part exploration into fatherhood featuring dance theatre, drama, poetry and more. The opening dance piece gives the show its title. Conceived by Posy Knight, the piece represents some of the show’s best abstract work. Ida Lucchesi, Lindsay Stevens and Joelle Worm render a struggle amidst a deep soundscape that includes spoken word from various voices and echoes of the distinctive eloquence of Barack Obama speaking of fatherhood. The abstract multi-person movement work is some of the more beautiful stuff on the program.
The show gets a bit more directly narrative in a trilogy of “Family Life” pieces which include an imaginary ball thrown around between father and kids. Sounds of the construction which echo the title take the form of power drills, hammers and saws that don’t seem to be organized in any particular way. (There’s almost an abstract kind of confusion in the sound effects. This is what it’s like to be a father, though: it’s a lot of work and it can feel like you don’t have a goddamned clue as to what you’re doing. Just keeping sawing and drilling and pounding-in the nails and you’ll be fine..the important thing is that you’re actually there and doing something. you’ll figure it out as you work...) One of the more starkly simple and hauntingly dark pieces in the show is the “Family Life II” between Thomsen and Ben Ludwig. The two engage in admirably complex relations which swiftly shift in an elegantly primal, little moment between two men in a public men’s room.
Ludwig brings the show to a bit of a crescendo with “Legacy,” a piece featuring choreography by Zach Schorsch. There’s a genuine struggle to find identity and gender identity as Ludwig engages in an energetic and aggressive pseudo-duet with a mannequin and number of feather boas. The piece is fairly simple, but Ludwig’s subtle magnetism does an elegant job of selling the gravity of the drama.
The concept of fatherhood is as dizzyingly complex as it is vague. The show doesn’t attempt any kind of a comprehensive dissection of the topic. This works to the overall advantage of the show. There’s so much interpretive artistic abstraction in form and movement that a more explicitly-rendered analysis of fatherhood would suffer. Instead, the show dreamily coasts through certain feelings of universal dad-like Americana. The show’s traditionally American father abstraction is just ambiguous enough to draw-in audiences to a personal connection with the concept of “dad.” Just about any open heart can connect with it regardless of personal history. That’s the beauty in this kind of abstraction.
I wasn’t exactly “fathered” by a dad. I’m not really a traditional dad to my daughters either...not in the cliche way anyway. The show managed to resonate with me on a personal level anyway. With vaguely dad-like notions playing across the stage, the show draws on vague notions that coax vivid memories in a shadowy space beyond the plastic curtain above a bar in Riverwest.
53212 Presents’ I’m a Father Under Construction runs through June 29th at Grapefruit Studios above Company Brewing on 735 E. Center St. For more information, visit 53212 Presents online.