Monday, July 16, 2012

From delight to danger, 'fragment(ed)' delivers

Empty Spaces Theater Ensemble, under the direction of John DiDonna, presented a jaw dropping experiment in live performance with “fragment(ed)” at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Orlando Thursday July 12. From delightful to dangerous, this production attempts to answers the complications of love and how it can lead to the fragmentation of people.

“It's incredible to know these thoughts that we have mean something to others, as an artist you never know beforehand,” said Director, John DiDonna.

The play “fragment(ed)” is the compilation of actual accounts about life, love and personal relationships of the dancers and actors, which brings home a much more palatable take on young love. In spoken word style, the ensemble cast proposed questions about what love is and what it means to be in love. All members of this ensemble cast including DiDonna brilliantly acted every line and danced every move with the utmost perfection.

“I can't believe this is in Orlando, this is New York quality,” said audience member Grover Austin. He and his wife Leigh stumbled upon the show and were both impressed with the production from start to finish.

Relationships slowly and awkwardly develop as different couples begin to meet and several stories play out at once. This gave the ensemble cast a chance to show off their acting chops as it involved quick timing exchanges between all members.

Things soon heat up as the first set of provocative dance sequences escalates during the song “Freak of Nature” which pushes the boundaries of provocative dance to the boiling point. All of the music for “fragment(ed)” was originally written by Tod Kimbro and is wonderfully blended with the plays modern style and steamy subject matter.

To help break some of the sexual tension the play had several moments of comic relief like the reminders of a “Promise Ring” as the words of a young girl’s parents awkwardly interrupt her first intimate moments.

“fragment(ed)” starts off fun and a little silly but gets dangerous as soon as loves doubt enter the relationships. They also address the sad fact that some relationships can digress into verbal and physical assaults.

In addition to all the dancing and ensemble acting there were moments where the battle of love was portrayed with action packed sword fights that utilize variances in time throughout that are brilliantly choreographed by Fight Director, Bill Warriner.

Several actors also utilized some simple bungee cords to represent the struggle of power and control in a relationship. Fighting to maintain control as they are spun around the stage, conveying the end of a turbulent relationship.

“We literally lost blood over that, you rip a bungee cord and it rips you back,” said actor, Parris Baker.

Gina Makarova, who plays the young conflicted girl in DiDonna’s latest project, is given her shining moment during her dizzying display of aerial acrobatics reminiscent of the famed Cirque Du Soleil performers. This act represents the young girl finally breaking free of the destructive relationship and starting the process of moving on with her life and one of the highlights of the play.

The complex nature of love warrants countless scenarios and “fragment(ed)” only attempted to scratch the surface. The final notion being that love is worth the risk because of the joy it can bring, is ultimately the lesson learned by all. By tackling so many issues the play became a time traveling adventure through the psychological behavior of love while inevitability searching for a better tomorrow.

Show organizers were not fully committed to the next installment of this series, only because it hasn’t been developed yet. But they revealed plans to create an experimental dance ensemble some time next year based on concepts similar to “fragment(ed)” only expanded even further.

Work on the groups next production “Phantasmagoria III,” is set to begin in a matter of weeks and is set to run at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center from mid to late October.

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)


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