The Bard Unraveled | Links Hall at Constellation | Dance | Chicago Reader
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The Bard Unraveled 

When: Sept. 3-7 2014
Price: $15-$20
Shakespeare is being rediscovered on the dance-theater circuit these days. But that doesn't mean stock adaptations of Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Dance is, after all, a medium made for allegory, and in Shakespeare's oeuvre there's plenty of that to work with.

With The Bard Unraveled, Innervation Dance Cooperative jumps on the bandwagon. The collaboratively choreographed show, set to music from jazz to punk, neatly condenses three plays—Twelfth Night, Hamlet, and Much Ado About Nothing—into one evening-length performance, with portions devoted to each one clocking in at just over 30 minutes. The plays pose exhilarating challenges—imagine presenting Beatrice and Benedick without their quick-witted banter. For good measure, Hamlet will be performed by an all-female cast. Based on Innervation's Twelfth Night, which I saw in rehearsal, the results are mixed.

Kids will enjoy the goofball romantic comedy of this segment, while adults can relish the ironic beach-resort setting that has a Tommy Bahama-clad Sir Toby Belch tussling in the imaginary sand with voluptuous flirt Maria. But in more serious parts, the players too often seem out of joint with their characters, dire when they should be mournful, squeamish when they should be terrified. And the movement in the "love at first sight" scenes is predictable and trite—Rockette kicks, handstands, hugs.

On the other hand, the company finds an inventive way to represent a central Shakespearean metaphor when Sebastian and Olivia fall in love and elope, helped out by the rest of the cast. One dancer is veiled, another in a suit jacket, and there's a ceremony as they transfer their garb to the bride and groom, a little detour that draws attention to the way characters can change depending on what they wear. The gesture is stimulating and original, something I would have liked to see more of. Jena Cutie



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