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    Molly Lieber in Katie Workum: Fruitlands
    Photo by Christopher Duggan
    Molly Lieber

    Four Heroines

    Katie Workum sows Fruitlands at The Chocolate Factory


    The hiss of a radiator or an old tape played loud, before the music hits, greets the audience as Katie Workum's Fruitlands begins. Weena Pauly enters like the romantic heroine of an old British novel — quiet, lush and probably troubled. As she faces something far away, past us, a smile creeps into and out of her gaze, and she begins a series of retreats and advances, in lines that carom off the invisible borders of the stage.

    Choreography by: Katie Workum and cast.
    Dancers: Molly Lieber, Marilyn Maywald, Weena Pauly, Katy Pyle.
    Music by: Jonathan Melville Pratt.
    Costumes by: Bonkuk Koo.
    Lighting design by: Carrie Wood.
    The Chocolate Factory
    April 18-21, 2012

    Three more identically dressed heroines — Molly Lieber, Marilyn Maywald, and Katy Pyle — run in and join Pauly and begin an endless whirlwind of running exits and entrances, swooping as a group and splitting into pairs, one pair leaving through the same portal the next pair enters. It looks exhausting and Sisyphusean, like continual escapes that lead back to the place escaped from, and eventually all subside together, breathing heavily.

    Music by Jonathan Pratt feeds everything, changing from driving to dreamy as the mood suits. Running, sweeping and falling resume until each falls one by one at the front of the stage, in dim light that reflects the ebbing energy. Each throws off her shawl and begins a series of odd, bentover-from-the-hip movement explorations. Workum is adept at mixing odd and familiar, often giving the odd a familiar feel and the familiar an odd feel.

    L-R: Molly Lieber, Marilyn Maywald, Katy Pyle, Weena Pauly in Katie Workum: Fruitlands
    Photo by Christopher Duggan
    L-R: Molly Lieber, Marilyn Maywald, Katy Pyle, Weena Pauly

    In between rounds of great activity, the women confer and plan, soft but intent. Semaphore arms signal while succumbing heads lie in laps. Victory arms follow an especially dramatic run, but it ends in bright silence. Desparate or despondent, Pauly hugs Lieber tightly around the neck, and the two go through an intense, grappling duet, locked together with Lieber in a wide stance, Pauly's legs running between. It is powerful, even scary, a mid-piece climax.

    After this breakout or breakdown, all four look through lit windows, in darkness and silence, moving in a clump from one window to the next, an equally moving moment. From here, more and more clothes are shed, until bare-legged women gather their skirts and hide their faces, hips swiveling slowly, softly erotic in effect if not intent. Tension crickets by Pratt mark the end of this section and the beginning of a wild buildup, wild motion to wild strings, until all sway in silence and dazzling bright light by Carrie Wood, then leave the stage empty but for four pairs of shoes, and heavy breathing coming from offstage.

    Weena Pauly in Katie Workum: Fruitlands
    Photo by Christopher Duggan
    Weena Pauly

    — — — -

    Though nothing in the program notes mentions it, Fruitlands was the quixotic Transcendentalist vision of Amos Bronson Alcott, a Utopian agrarian community in the 1840s that lasted all of seven months and led one of his four daughters, Louisa May Alcott, to write about the experience in Transcendental Wild Oats.

    APRIL 23, 2012

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