Sunday, February 16, 2014

A valentine from David Parker at Joe's Pub

Jeffrey Kazin (left) and David Parker in Head Over Heels
at Joe's Pub
(photo by Yi-Chun Wu)
"I used to think of myself as a song-and-dance man manqué," said choreographer David Parker, as he welcomed a huge Valentine's weekend crowd to his latest show, Head Over Heels, created expressly for Joe's Pub and DANCENOW. "I've been able to realize my dreams here." Parker and his gang, The Bang Group, are perfectly happy to cram themselves into the Public Theater's little pie-wedge stage, and the cheerful nightclub setting serves them well.

The timely theme, this time, is love in all its ups and downs and uncertainties. That theme--surely you've noticed--owns lots of real estate across the artistic landscape and certainly plays out across all areas of great attraction to Parker: classic show tunes and romantic comedies, tuxedo-ed tap dance numbers and the like. Head Over Heels, with its intense "musical chairs" couplings--enacted in close quarters by Parker, Jeffrey KazinAmber Sloan and Nic Petry--marries conventional entertainment values to unconventional, and continuously shifting, romantic configurations.

Parker (left) with Nic Petry and Amber Sloan
(photo by Yi-Chun Wu)
Made for the Joe's Pub space-time continuum--that pie wedge, those 60 minutes, that audience serviced with food and drink and then quickly ushered out before the next crowd arrives--Head Over Heels compresses a lot into its limitations. There are ten numbers, all linked to the letter "R": Restlessness, Retrenchment, Replacement, Reconciliation, Reconsideration, Recrimination, Resolution, Resilience, Relapse, Restoration. A little too cute, this, and I lost track of which "R" was which in any given moment, but that probably does not matter. The "What's New, Pussycat?" section of "Replacement" showed the tightest example of Parker's clever intricacy of craft, with Kazin and partner Petry confined to and spinning around an axis as if dancing and figure skating atop a turntable.

More generous and bubbly in nature than subversive, Head Over Heels is, nevertheless, every openly gay-positive show--on television, in the movies, on Broadway, on the ballet stage and on ice--that folks from my generation should have been fortunate enough to see when we were growing up. Parker goes back to go forward.

Head Over Heels has closed. Keep up with The Bang Group's activities by clicking here. For information about upcoming events at Joe's Pub, click here.

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