Music, Dance Reviews : ‘Parts & Labor’ Parodies Car Mania


“If you’re an American, you’re interested in power,” declares actor John Pleshette, gesturing to a decrepit Cadillac sedan on an auto-repair lot in Studio City. Exhorting, manipulating and seducing, he embodies the intense, all-American fixation on the automobile at the heart of Collage Dance Theatre’s new site-specific collaboration “Parts & Labor.”

When no buyers emerge from the audience (seated on folding chairs at the corner of Moorpark and Whitsett), Pleshette turns his attention to the Peugeot parked nearby and later a Volvo. He even tries to sell Pamela Dunlap, a figure dressed in spare auto parts who spends most of the 45-minute work guzzling from a gas-can before speaking her final lament-of-the-dispossessed.

Besides texts by Merridawn and Garrick Duckler, “Parts & Labor” incorporates music by the Antenna Repairmen: three guys in overalls who not only pound on big oil drums scattered across the lot but play that Cadillac using sticks, wrenches, bare hands and strategically located electronic sensors.


You want high art? You want class? Check out the four veiled figures in black writhing atop the oil drums, flitting through the lot and shining up that Volvo. Although their fluid unison routines deftly combine the style of early modern dance with car-related pantomime, Heidi Duckler’s choreography really takes off only when the dancers return in surgical masks and gowns to perform an emergency operation on the unwanted Cad.

Dancing around and on top of it, hooking up intravenous tubes to it, vanishing inside its trunk, they eventually deliver its love child: a living hood ornament with halogen breasts, the ultimate statement of auto-eroticism.

Although “Parts & Labor” begins with 30-year-old film clips showing Detroit’s distorted vision of the future, social satire dominates only that prologue and the texts. Indeed, its most inspired passages qualify as pure junkyard art: abandoned objects and even buildings transformed into integral components of uproariously inventive music and dance. Clearly, the participants love old cars more than they’d like to admit and their feelings give the work an unexpected warmth.