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We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..

After a tryout run in Chicago, 34 previews and 746 performances on Broadway, and a tour launch in Buffalo, “On Your Feet!” has finally opened in the place where Cuban-born music superstars Gloria and Emilio Estefan made their dreams come true: Miami. At Friday’s red carpet opening at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, with the Estefans and their extended family in atte..

Whether the comedy is high or low, performer-writer Steve Martin has been making moviegoers, “Saturday Night Live” fans and theater lovers laugh for more than half a century – hard to believe it’s been that long, but he started early. Martin’s way with both cerebral jokes and physical comedy is abundantly on display in “The Underpants,” his 2002 adaptation of Carl Sternheim’s once-ban..

Robert Schenkkan’s “Building the Wall” begins as a wary conversation between two strangers: Rick, a white male convict awaiting a likely death sentence, and Gloria, a black female historian and college professor. For 90 minutes, the two talk. She probes; he explains and justifies and slowly paints a picture of a man-made Seventh Circle of Hell. By the time the play ends, the audience ..

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ award-winning play “An Octoroon” layers an antebellum melodrama with 21st-century parlance and perspective. The result is an innovative play-within-a-play that skillfully reminds us of slavery’s horrible past and its ever-present legacy. Area Stage Company’s production, thoughtfully directed by John Rodaz, brings together a talented cast to ensure this melodra..

Even before the election that transformed billionaire reality TV star Donald J. Trump into the 45th president of the United States, playwright Robert Schenkkan was so disturbed by the candidate’s anti-immigrant rhetoric that he decided to respond. Not with a Tweet. Not with an opinion-page essay. The Pulitzer Prize winner spoke back to candidate Trump with a full-length play. “Building..

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Rafael Nofal’s play “El tiempo de la mandarinas” (“Season for Tangerines”) tackles the very relevant and disturbing theme of human trafficking. Produced by Antiheroes Project, this moving play is in its last week at Artefactus Teatro, a well-purposed black box and gallery space in a smattering of warehouses in Kendall. Nofal’s text removes overt violence and male characters fr..

Joshua Harmon’s savagely funny “Bad Jews” is an emotional cage match set in a pricey Manhattan studio apartment. The combatants are Daphna Feygenbaum (Hannah Benitez), a soon-to-be Vassar grad who plans to move to Israel, marry a man no one in the family has met and become a rabbi, and her cousin Liam Haber (Joseph Paul Pino), a master’s degree candidate and atheist who intends to..

The play begins, as it must, with the velvet voice of Nat King Cole crooning “Mona Lisa.” After all, how many paintings inspire an Oscar-winning song? For that matter, how many masterpieces survive damage, theft and the rapacious covetousness of collectors for more than half a millennium? Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Gioconda,” popularly known as the Mona Lisa, is that inspi..

A Halloween Dance interpretation of Edgar Allen Poe


Photo: Juliana Trivino as 'Montresor' and Sasha Caicedo as 'Fortunato.' Photo: Carlo Javier
Written by: George Fishman
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Reflecting on the brutal treatment she receives at the hands of Juliana Triviño, who plays her torturer in the October 28 Alma Dance Theater (ADT) production of “Cask,” fellow principal dancer Sasha Caicedo said, “Juliana is my very best friend. It's so hard knowing that I love her so much, and we have to act the opposite. The easy part is how comfortable we are.”

That “comfort” makes it possible for her to accept being pushed, swung, thrown and dragged around the stage in choreographer Marissa Alma Nick’s deeply disturbing interpretation of Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Cask of Amontillado.” Physically, for Sasha this is a “brutal, brutal, brutal role to play,” said Nick. Indeed, the thuds and squeaks of flesh on wood are unsettling to a rehearsal visitor.

During Nick’s senior year at the University of South Florida, “while exploring her dark side,” she became captivated by Poe’s grim short story. Its macabre narrative of betrayal, rage and revenge became the vehicle for her thesis project and complemented her study of Carl Jung’s theory of the shadow persona.

“Cask”’s themes were personally familiar from abusive love relationships Nick had endured. “We’ve all felt pain; we’ve all felt hurt by someone we loved,” she reflected in a recent interview. “I thought I could honestly connect to both characters, feeling so disconnected from reality and then realizing the consequences only at the final moment.” In Poe’s story, set in an unnamed European city centuries ago, nobleman Montresor (Triviño) had been grievously affronted by his fellow wine connoisseur, Fortunato (Caicedo). The unspecified offense drove Montresor so mad that he determined to secretly murder Fortunato after luring him into his wine cellar – purportedly to sample a cask of rare Amontillado sherry.

Nick has presented this sinister theater piece five times, each with changes of venue, staging, choreography, costuming and music. Among her latest innovations is the use of aerial silks, a type of acrobatics, executed while hanging from long strips of fabric, secured to overhead rigging. They serve as a versatile and expressive vehicle of potential escape and of bondage for Caicedo’s ironically named Fortunato character. Practicing and performing with the silks demand prodigious strength and flexibility. Her slender physique, minimally costumed, clearly reveals the punishment meted upon her by the malevolent, but inwardly tortured Montresor, whose regal gown reinforces her dominance, pride and vanity in what may be a sadomasochistic relationship.

Nick impressed on her two principals that, while quintessential antagonists, they’re almost two sides of the same person. “We all have the potential to hurt and be hurt,” she said. “It’s an exaggerated story, but it’s toying with the scenarios that play out in all of our minds.

Montresor’s suffering mirrors that of her victim. Anguish is revealed in the contortions of her initial solo and amplified by the recurring appearances of three dancers, called “Tenebris” (darknesses), who embody and externalize multiple facets of her inner life. They form knots, swooping, writhing, mirroring and contrasting with one another.In a key sequence, they move to center stage like one multi-jointed creature. Fortunato is draped across their backs until they unceremoniously dump her.

Revenge may be best served cold, but it’s never a true resolution without the inner work of forgiveness. Gestures of apparent tenderness are trigger points that only increase Montresor’s pain, madness and aggression. As Nick explained, “There’s no question of forgiveness, but there are moments of intimacy, reminding us of how much they loved one another.” Caicedo reflected, “You go through anger, denial, pleading. Why do I deserve this? Why is this person I love doing this to me?” Her specific malfeasance is never explicitly illuminated, but we comprehend its depth and intimacy through both their choreographed introspections and Montresor’s physical assaults.

Nick melds the cool video aesthetics with the immediacy of theater-in-the-round and Japanese Butoh theater to her experimental practice. This strategy pushes audiences to focus not only on the “big picture,” but to zoom in on the nuances of skin texture, subtle flexing of joints, angles of limbs. “There is somebody facing every direction of your body at all times,” said Nick, “so there’s not one part that doesn’t count.”

Music is integrated in a distinctive fashion. Composer Hope Littwin, who attended Miami’s New World School of the Arts with Nick, remains a favorite collaborator. After initial conversations and exchanges of musical samples, Nick left Littwin to her own process and used Philip Glass’ minimalist Koyaanisqatsi during rehearsals. In fact, Littwin’s music won’t arrive until the final week, intentionally keeping things fresh and vital for the dancers now entering their final week of rehearsal before the Halloween weekend performance.

‘Cask,’ Friday, 8:30 p.m. sharp, doors and bar open at 7:30, Miami-Dade County Auditorium, On.Stage Black Box Theater, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami; Tickets $25–$50; 305-547-5414;

http://www.almadancetheater.com.

 



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Artist, performance arts and music writer

George Fishman is a writer and mosaics artist who has also worked with audio projects. He has worked in traditional mosaics for 20 years, mostly c..

About the Writer

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