Over Valentine’s Day weekend, Scorpius Dance Theatre presented “David and Lisa: An Unusual Love Story.” This performance was marketed as a “must see on your Valentine’s Day weekend” event, giving me the impression that I would be seeing a romantic love story about how Scorpius artistic director Lisa Starry and her husband David Starry found true love.
Other than the fact that Lisa Starry saw the 1962 film "David and Lisa" in college while she was dating David Starry, Scorpius’ theatrical performance had nothing to do with the Starrys’ love life.
The film “David and Lisa” was filled with grim characters that eased their way into Scorpius’ theatrical reincarnation of the film. I should have known that Lisa Starry would not create a sunshine-and-flowers type of love story. Her previous creations have had a knack for loneliness, isolation and dark humor.
The main character, David, played by Gavin Sisson, is extremely suspicious of others and interprets their motives as malevolent. David imagines the other characters taunting and mimicking him. There was a frequent motif of a Scorpius corps member approaching David, while David cowers away in fear.
David was shocked every time Lisa attempted to enter his kinesphere. Lisa is a girl with two personalities, one childlike and playful, the other darker and corrupt in nature. Lisa, played by Lisa Hammond, would frolic around David with hops and tours, creating a constrained version of lofting freedom.
David would watch her out of the corner of his eye, let her approach him, and then tumble backwards on his hands and feet whenever she attempted to touch him. For the majority of the show, David did two things: scurry backwards and tug awkwardly at his clothing.
Sisson displayed his incredible skills as a mover in his opening solo, during which he would plank fall to the floor. There were other moments where Sisson’s skills as an emotive mover were showcased in leaps and aggressive rolls.
I do not understand why his skills as a mover were not utilized to portray his character through dance more frequently. Observing him execute more gestural choreography would have been alluring and progressed the plot line just as much, if not more, than the repeated action of scrambling and tugging.
The characters were really what made watching this performance so pleasurable. Each member of the corps had an individualized character, and each character was just as dark and twisted as David and Lisa. There was a girl who thought she was a cat, a guy who photographed everything, a narcoleptic, some sex-crazed teens and some characters who would sit and stare at the audience in the midst of chaos.
There were corps characters that I truly fell in love with during the show, and every time there was a group number, I would look for them to see how their character reacted to the situation.
My favorite scene had all of the characters in a horizontal line. The lights flashed like strobes, and all the performers were bent forward and stood up to the steady beat. However, whenever they stood up straight, they each immediately snapped into their individualized characterization — bug-eyed, paws up, sleeping, holding hands.
David’s mother, played by Nicole L. Olson, stood in the center of this line. She stood with a pristine element of poise and control. This role was made for Olson, with her long spine, sharp movements, controlled limbs and darting glare.
Scorpius Dance Theatre is filled with entertaining plot lines, a powerful production team, and a large cast of athletic movers. It would be interesting to see the characterization executed through the choreography rather than outside of the choreography or layering the characterization on top of the movement. “Lisa and David: An Unusual Love Story,” was a step towards the convergence of athleticism, dance and theater.
I cannot end this review without acknowledging the lighting by Daniel Davisson and music by Kristofer Hill. The two understand the aesthetics of Scorpius Dance Theatre, and generate a bold and striking audiovisual experience.
“David and Lisa: An Unusual Love Story” had a dramatic, strong story line that allowed the audience relate, laugh, and understand the characters. The production value and pacing of the show were incredibly polished, and all of the elements synced together with a dramatic ease.
This review has also been shared in the Downtown Devil Curtain Critic, along with other reviews of performances in Downtown Phoenix. To see the review in the Downtown Devil visit the Downtown Devil Curtain Critic.
Photography Courtesy of Scorpius Dance Theatre
Review by Julie Akerly
Saturday, February 14