L es Petits Rats is actually a pair of performances, primarily honchoed by Margery Fairchild and Elizabeth Ward. The first, "Chessboard Queens," is a movement sequence choreographed by Ward that uses everything from traditional celtic dance to sprinting. The epic piece pauses occasionally, allowing the audience to contemplate the sound of the three performers gasping after a flurry of balletic athleticism. The jazzy live soundtrack, as performed by Jef Brown and the Michigan Avenue Social Orchestra, makes a huge contribution to the power of the performances. The costumes, by Kimberly Webster, also add a funkiness that compliments the eclecticism of the choreography. Charmingly, the dancers perform both sections in low-top Chuck Taylors. Aside from being hip, the dancers convey an enjoyment that infects the audience; they honestly seem to have trouble keeping their grins in check as they play with an encyclopedic repertoire of movement.
The second section is entitled "Cockroach," a piece that leans toward musical theatre. The three primary dancers begin the show under a drab green tent-like curtain, which constitutes a set. Looking like government-issue hornets in flight goggles and duct tape-accented lederhosen, they creep around as the drama's dim, dictatorial villains. Drawing the band off the sidelines, the music for this piece includes lyrics sung by Daphna Kohn. Costumed out like an out-of-time peasant of the French Revolution, her character marches and chants political rally cries, as well as narrating in a shrill, operatic address to the crowd.
Les Petits Rats succeeds in blending the disciplines and traditions of professional dance and musical theatre with a raw, creative youthfulness that will appeal to those who may not normally find themselves patronizing dance theater venues. The show is made more accessible by its mercurial style, channeling from enough angles to provide something for everyone. Both intelligently humorous and symbolic, Rats can be appreciated in a variety of contexts.
Catherine Buchalter, the only surviving bicyclist that was struck by the drunk driver on Southeast Belmont, was originally slated to play the viola in Les Petits Rats, and its run is partially a fundraiser to help support her while in the hospital. MARJORIE SKINNER