Sounding Hekate
Christine Calfas
Conduit, through Nov 18

This review of Christine Calfas' new one-woman show, Sounding Hekate, will be divided into six parts: 1.) Relevant trivia. 2.) My confession. 3.) Interpretative plot synopsis. 4.) Lasting images. 5.) Pandering, melodramatic praise to fill in the hole left by my cowardly reluctance to decipher lasting images. 6.) Wrap-up.

1.) Relevant trivia: Hekate is an ancient and popular Greek goddess who supposedly brings many blessings of wealth, victory, wisdom, and good luck for hunters and sailors. She is best known, however, for being a keeper of the keys to the Underworld and an attendant to the Underworld queen, Persephone. At night, she is often found wandering with the souls of the deceased, her approach made known by the howling of dogs. She is worshipped at crossroads where "suppers" are left out in her honor as a purification rite.

My enjoyment of this show was not affected by previously not knowing this info. But since it is the sun around which the show orbits--and since Calfas makes many references, both spoken and sung, to the "crossroads," and other Underworld-related phenomena--and yet provides no forward to the Hekate myth in the show's program or otherwise, I thought it might be useful to include here.

2.) My confession: I zoned out during a crucial part where Calfas held a puppet in her arms and told it a story. I think this story might have explained what Hekate is. If that is the case, and that opening story did tell the story of Hekate, then you can dismiss everything you read in part 1.

And before you dismiss me as irresponsible and unreliable, please understand the following: See, Calfas has these huge blue eyes you can get lost in if you're not careful, and the way she was holding the puppet, so gentle and soft... Well, I sort of felt like I was asleep in her arms myself. I let the sound and feeling of her words put my brain to sleep and thus didn't hear what those words were saying. I didn't absorb most of what she said, but I enjoyed hearing it as much as anyone else in the audience. That's all that matters--right?

3.) Interpretative plot synopsis: Like all good pieces grounded in movement, Hekate's plot will vary based on who is watching it. It is poetry, not prose. I think Calfas tells the puppet the story of Hekate and the Underworld, then trades places with the puppet as it is drifting off to sleep. She then takes us on a journey through the puppet's dreams, which involves meeting Hekate and being scared and exhilarated all at once. Her opening story begins with "Once upon a time," and ends with, "Yes, you will die. So begin here." That chilling line recurs at the end of the piece as well, again with Calfas holding the puppet in her arms, and this time, singing with her eerie, beautiful voice. It is as if the events that follow the opening story are a dramatic reenactment inside the puppet's brain of that story. Since I missed most of that opening story, I can't tell you anymore. Heh.

4.) Lasting images: The opening minute, as Calfas explodes into the room and sprints around it accompanied by jungle drums. Her relationship with the puppet--so tender, so sweet and real, were my favorite part of the show; the back wall and a purple light; Calfas somehow moving from one corner to the other without appearing to move her legs, as if she is getting pulled against her will, as if she is slowly transforming into the puppet and being controlled by someone else; Mark Burdon's strong, tight percussion work.

5.) Pandering, melodramatic praise to fill in the hole left by my cowardly reluctance to decipher lasting images: Calfas is a professionally trained actor; her voice fills the room when she speaks, without being loud. Her singing is the same way: beautiful, sweet, and effortless. She is a skillful and creative dancer and choreographer. She is a stellar puppeteer, creating an infinitely complex, deeply poignant relationship with a faceless mass of styrofoam and cloth. Did I mention she's gorgeous as well? Add all that up. The sum is one Hell of a compelling performer.

6.) Wrap-up: Like most dance-oriented Portland events, this one only runs two weekends. Thus, you have this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to get your ass over to Conduit and check it out.