During his 31-year career, Bielemeier has mastered the juxtaposition between the silly and the elegant; the graceful and the absurd. His very dancing style is both fluid and choppy. He is an extremely skilled dancer, moving from place to place with the wisdom and grace of an older swan. At the same time, something inside him possesses him to chop through the smoothness. He jerks and gyrates, swats at imaginary things flitting around his face, and yet never loses that aura of beauty and dignity. The seamless marriage of opposites is no better expressed than in Bielemeier's new piece, Poodle Farm. At no other theatrical entertainment this year will you see a romantic relationship played out through an interpretive dance wrestling match on an inflatable pink couch. There is also a character named Cowboy Girl who struts about in an enormous frilly skirt; two country western-singing women who sing about Cowboy Girl; a hot pink leisure suit; and a giant disco ball. Through it all, Bielemeier consistently cuts through the madness with poignant anecdotes about his childhood. Even the pink couch sequence is loaded with a bittersweet remorse that prevents it from being overwhelmingly silly. Relationships are hard, Bielemeier seems to be saying, and frustrating. Sometimes they're hilarious; sometimes they're rough. More often than not, they're both.
If Poodle Farm has a flaw, it's only that there may not be quite enough of it. It's autobiographical, a sort of moving memoir, but the anecdotes Bielemeier has chosen from his life don't really add up to anything. The show's subtitle, CityBoy Born in a Country Boy's Body, is misleading. Nothing here touches on the transition from rural life to urban life, or the issues that might go with marrying the two. Bielemeier makes it clear that from a young age he was obsessed with metropolitan things like fashion and dance, but little is said about how that affected his country upbringing. The pink couch sequence, easily the show's highlight, at the same time doesn't seem to follow the childhood anecdotes that precede it. One minute Bielemeier is a small boy, obsessing over a stuffed poodle at the fair, and the next he is in the throws of a complicated relationship which, like most relationships, is both very grown-up and completely ridiculous. JUSTIN SANDERS