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  •  REVIEW: HEATHER OLSON: SHY SHOWOFF

    Levi Gonzalez, Erin Gerken, Heather Olson (L-R) in Heather Olson: Shy Showoff
    Photo by Ryutaro Mishima
    Levi Gonzalez, Erin Gerken, Heather Olson (L-R)

    Odd Family

    Heather Olson is the Shy Showoff at Chocolate Factory

    By QUINN BATSON
    Offoffoff.com

    So much of Heather Olson's Shy Showoff feels like family. Not the smiling apple-pie family of '50s TV but the odd, morphing family of every day. This is the kids at home playing and competing in the 90 percent of the time their parents aren't around.

      
    HEATHER OLSON: SHY SHOWOFF
    Choreography by: Heather Olson.
    Dancers: Heather Olson, Erin Gerken, Levi Gonzalez.
    Production design by: James Lo.
    Sound design by: James Lo.
    Lighting design by: Chloe Z. Brown.
    Video editing: Dianna Dilworth.
     SCHEDULE
    The Chocolate Factory
    September 21-24, 2011

    Olson and "siblings" Levi Gonzalez and Erin Gerken enter together and shut us out, first, backs to us. As the other two remain statues, Olson begins to crawl backward and explore small movements, looking more and more like a bird as she ends up in a brighter-lit space at the back of the stage, casting larger shadows as her movements get a bit bigger. She is in her own room, trying on different personas, making out with the wall for practice or fantasy, dancing with upraised power arms while no one can see and shame them down.

    Meanwhile, impressively imperceptibly, Gerken and Gonzalez have been moving from a passive stand to an active one, and finally begin to move, swaying like trees in the wind, rooted in place. Gerken, as the sexy supercompetent sister (or alter-ego), dances a strong solo, sometimes with kitteh-claw hands, that ends, hilariously, in a soundtrack hiss with a claw swipe. James Lo plays with little bits of sound like this for much of the piece, breaking long silences with a humorous zap, like the whip sound that accompanies a well-timed kick, once. And Gonzalez remains the quiet, slightly odd brother that plays gamely and holds his own just enough to keep his spot in the family.

    Levi Gonzalez, Heather Olson, Erin Gerken (L-R) in Heather Olson: Shy Showoff
    Photo by Ryutaro Mishima
    Levi Gonzalez, Heather Olson, Erin Gerken (L-R)

    Backward crawling is strangely prominent in Shy Showoff, turning the three into infants or vaguely animal creatures. Two of the creatures have a showoff showdown, pawing the ground with back feet but never fighting. Creaking doors accompany much of this.

    What feels like a home movie recording of Olson dancing in front of friends and family becomes a mirror and an extra dimension as first Olson and then Gerken as well begin to mimic the movie dancer. At one point, the three are in remarkable sync, with no strong visual or sonic cues, a testament to how skilled these two are. Again, there is the dynamic of Olson, shy in the background, then the movie version of herself performing for an intimate group, and Gerken out in front of the theater audience as the more confident sister/aspect of the shy showoff.

    Erin Gerken and Levi Gonzalez in Heather Olson: Shy Showoff
    Photo by Ryutaro Mishima
    Erin Gerken and Levi Gonzalez

    The sisters end up in the bedroom, playing a slow but intense game of slaphands, until the brother joins them. A 3-way pushoff morphs to a 2-way pushoff leaving Olson alone, and the 3 then melt and pour together variously, eventually with the sibs sitting obediently to be pet-patted on the head by Olson.

    The end section, beginning as the sibs look up from their supine positions, is a classic bedroom rockout to that classic girl voice of Chrissy Hynde singing of "all my sorrow" in the way only the Pretenders could, with power and liquid pathos. The three exhaust themselves with high kicks and manic jumping around, wearing strongman arms and kitteh hands, leaving Olson alone, to crawl quietly backwards into the first row of the audience, shy again.

    What a little showoff. What an odd and endearing evening.

    SEPTEMBER 28, 2011
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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