Saturday, August 11, 2012

"Saharava" on the Fringe

I'm only getting around to a couple of FringeNYC shows this August. With age--and heat and humidity--comes the desire, and the right, to be more selective and dash about less. But Saharava: A Ritualized Dance-Opera, with its Tarot-related theme, called to me, and its nearby location at Theater 80 on St. Mark's Place made it an easy choice.

Described as "a primitive and raw theatrical ritual combining dance and wordless song," the hour-long production "follows the journey of the Fool through the Major Arcana of the Tarot." As wonderful as Theater 80's tiny, shallow stage can be for some shows, the ambitious Saharava needs bigger space to serve Andre Megerdichian's large, skillful cast, passionate, sometimes complex choreography and bustling stage arrangements. A little more distance between viewers and performers might also work in its favor--for example, minimizing the awkwardness of up-flipping, underwear-exposing lifts. These close-up, unsightly flashes of strange-looking, "flesh"-colored underpants beneath the women's faux-Greek tunics had unintended comical, trance-deflating effect. Megerdichian's respectable efforts--and his dancers--deserve a chance.

Fahad Siadat, who played The Magician, a symbol from Tarot's Major Arcana, also composed the instrumental and vocal elements of this "dance-opera." His influence begins in the lengthy "Prelude" of Om-like vocalization, didgeridoo-blowing and drone-droning from a dimly-lit stage, dropping the audience's blood pressure several notches. That's cool and befits a ritualistic atmosphere. Unfortunately, despite the presence of trained voices, the subsequent straight hour of wordless howling, screeching, barking, wheezing and the like sounded amateurish, suggesting an extended acting exercise more than a ritual of transformation.

I know the Tarot well, and the only archetype that read at all clear to me was The Devil (David Niles), who turns the stage into hell on earth for his driven minions. It would have been good to comprehend this work better as The Fool's Journey if other Tarot characters had been rendered with sharpness and purpose.

But see for yourself. Saharava: A Ritualized Dance-Opera continues at Theater 80 over the following schedule:

Sunday, August 12 at 1pm
Tuesday, August 14 at 2:30pm
Wednesday, August 15 at 7:45pm
Friday, August 24 at 7:15pm

Get more information and reservations on this and other New York Fringe Festival shows here.

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