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    Wonderboy and five Joe Goode dancers in Joe Goode Performance Group
    Photo by Austin Forbord
    Wonderboy and five Joe Goode dancers

    Wonderboys and Girls

    Joe Goode works with cowboys and a sensitive gay puppet


    A spotlit cowboy named Joe Goode says howdy from the balcony and sings us a little song "acapulco" that asks another cowboy to please stay home awhile. This little number neatly previews the themes of the evening: cowboys, commitment and creating a space to be gay in a world that's not necessarily set up for it. Goode is a consummate performer, thoroughly comfortable in his own skin onstage. He can take nothing and make it something or make a lot from a little. The dancers in his Performance Group aren't bad, either; each is an excellent mover and an able talker and gets plenty of opportunity to do both.

    Choreography by: Joe Goode.
    Dancers: Joe Goode, with Felipe Barrueto-Cabello, Melecio Estrella, Jessica Swanson, Andrew Ward, Patricia West, Alexander Zendzian.
    Music by: Maverick Strain: Beth Custer
    Wonderboy: Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi
    Sound design by: Dylan McMillan.
    Costumes by: Wendy Sparks.
    Lighting design by: Maverick Strain: Jack Carpenter
    Wonderboy: Heather Basarah
    Production stage manager: Patrick Hajduk.
    Director of Puppetry: Basil Twist.

    Related links: Joyce Theater
    April 23-26, 2009
    Joyce Theater

    The first half of the show, the cowboy half, shows excerpts of Maverick Strain, created in 1996 as a deconstruction of Arthur Miller's screenplay The Misfits. Strain is a campy piece full of innuendo, fake violence and fake eros that finds many ways to entertain. Riffs on Nevada, John Wayne, cowboys and mechanics hit their marks, and the Goode technique of putting the same dialog on different characters to shift dynamics surfaces here first, in this case with women using the same lines cowboys used earlier. The intersex interplay is cute, for example in the line from cowboy to girl: "Did you ever get to know a man better by asking him questions?" After more wordplay in a shot-a-man scene, couples dance some solid, sensuous duets in soft light. Just as the mood seems headed to somber, cowboy hats fly onstage, wooden fences are turned around to their star-spangled sides, and rays of light on the background set up an upbeat Broadway-style ending.

    The second half, the puppet half, presents Wonderboy as a puppet onstage and a human archetype, the sensitive soul who sees the beauty of the world but fears participating in it. A puppet conceived by Basil Twist and wonderful lighting by Heather Basarab give this piece a Peter Pan/Neverland feel, and the dancers turn out to be excellent puppeteers as well. Puppet narration via dancers taking turns speaking into a pitch-shifted microphone onstage also adds an eerie quality to Wonderboy, giving him a tiny human/superhuman voice. Though he appreciates the beauty of everything he sees, this puppet falls hard for a boy. As in any good drama, plenty of obstacles come up, among them a group of scary homotrashing cheerleaders rooting for team W (for World?), which certainly doesn't stand for Wonderboy. Against odds and his own expectations, he finally meets his boy and learns by the end of the piece to fly, literally and otherwise.

    There is a beautiful, magical quality to Wonderboy overall, and Goode manages to insert plenty of wise words and observations into the mouth of a puppet that continually seems more real than we know he is, making it easy to suspend our disbelief even as he flies offstage into the audience like Superman to end the show.

    APRIL 29, 2009

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