Communication Breakdown 

Near to the Wild Heart

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In 2009, three members of Fever Theater—Kate Sanderson Holly, Jacob Coleman, and Amber Whitehall—produced a show called Smiling in the Dark/Alone Together, a playful and thought-provoking consideration of relationships that used dance, movement, and conversation to explore its subject matter. It was one of my favorite shows ever from Fever.

Now Fever Theater is no more, and from the ashes of that company emerges the Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble. PETE is Holly, Coleman, and Whitehall, as well as two new collaborators, Cristi Miles and Rebecca Lingafelter.

The new company's first show is still months out, but a solo offering from one of its members opened last weekend: Near to the Wild Heart is a solo show from Whitehall, billed as a "dance monologue." She wears a black dress; her only props are a chair and a bowl of grapes, which she clutches like a still life come abruptly into being, Mannequin-style.

Whitehall's hour-long performance is clearly very personal—but there are crucial lines of communication between audience and performer that Wild Heart never manages to forge. Whitehall is exploring, with her body and voice, the limitations of logic as a way of organizing experience. But as she moves through the space in loping figure eights or traces a greasepaint outline of her body on a window, the audience remains bafflingly in the dark as to what, exactly, is meant to take logic's place.

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