The Open Gate Theatre--a talented, multicultural group of musicians, dancers and performance artists--has seen sharper days. In an amateurish evening at the First Congregational Church in Pasadena on Saturday, the company dredged up many of the prevailing cliches of contemporary performance art.
Rika Ohara’s “Shelter IV 1/2: The Last Supper,” the featured work on the bill, continued the artist’s ongoing exploration of “awaiting nuclear destruction in a glass shelter the size of the Berlin Olympic Stadium.”
In a series of black and white tableaux, a huge gauze-draped cross in the background, four performers (Ohara, Carol Cetrone, DeEn Swayden and Will Salmon) writhed, twitched and convulsed in slow motion in their chairs. As minimalist- and Balinese-flavored music played and abstract slides were superimposed on the back wall, Maria Bodmann, Cliff DeArment and John Payne completed the environment.
“An Epitaph for Man,” a text by Yukio Mishima, was read on a voice-over by Willy Bagot. Full of aphorisms about the failings of humankind, it reduced Ohara’s clean images to the familiar sentimentality of so many after-the-bomb artworks of the past decade.
Billed as a work in progress, Ohara’s performance nonetheless evinced a professionalism woefully absent from the three brief solos also on the program: a woman-breaks-free dance by Dagmar Stanec; an embarrassing text-based duo recounting anecdotes about racism by MA Bell and Margo Palluchi; and Will Salmon’s amusingly simian, if self-indulgent, “Tree Dance.”