SLUMMING ANGEL is a dance-theater production of few words and a lot of costume changes. The first show from the new company Deliberate Movement Theatre, it's a conceptual narrative with dashes of humor and a few poignant moments. The movements are colloquial, and so is the score, with sounds including birds chirping, Crisco commercials, and jazz.
The production attempts to trace the psyche of a woman (Anet Ris-Kelman) in what looks like mid-20th century America. It opens with the woman waking up in the morning and lazily getting dressed, silently gesturing for the audience to tie her shoes and do her hair. She eventually picks a man from the audience to join her onstage. You don't know if he's a random audience pick or a plant—these are some of the best moments of the show, when the fourth wall is broken.
The man, Don Kern, is indeed a planned part of the show—the main characters are "The Woman" and "The Man." The production is split into four scenes: Opening, Crowd, Married, and Beginning. In the opening scene, the man and woman meet and have a picnic onstage, which is tempered by Ris-Kelman directing Kern's actions with intense expressions; it's got silliness. Soon we see them at a party together, where a small crowd shuffles around them, following the woman and sizing her up, pinching her belly, undressing her.
The couple seems happy, but the next scene on the program is "Married," and you have a hunch about what's coming next: malaise. Sure enough, the husband comes home from work and greets the woman by grabbing his drink, lighting his cigarette, and plopping down in front of television, totally aloof. The woman is bored; she sets the table in the most elaborate way, like it's a game, as if that's the only outlet for her creativity.
It seems a little obvious, this unhappy-marriage stuff, especially because you don't see the relationship develop before it deteriorates. The show is fairly abstract, but I wish there was a stronger sense of the particular personalities of the man and woman, instead of generalizations. A relationship is being charted, but not any specific gestures of it—and, as they say, the devil is in the details.
Opening the show is You Too Are Made of Stars, a sci-fi dance performance by Wobbly Dance, the duo of Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson, who are both in wheelchairs. They spin in unison, Ferguson sometimes crawling across the stage toward Arakelyan, offering a chilling reflection on relationships in the distant future.