Huntington Sax Show Bares Froot
Dan Froot doesn’t just play the saxophone--he burbles and grunts into it, throws it around or turns it into an air-filling device for a condom.
On Saturday night at the Huntington Beach Art Center, in a program of short pieces combining music, movement and narrative, Froot was a beguiling performer, shamelessly mingling virtuosity, gimmickry and emotional coloring. His two big notes are wistfulness and playfulness, but sometimes they aren’t quite on pitch.
Theatrically, Froot’s monologue excerpt from his evening-long piece, “Blow Molding,” was the most satisfying. Drinking from and examining a plastic water bottle, he linked it to his stoic inventor father, who suffered a huge business setback. The beauty of this casually delivered piece, complete with onomatopoeic sounds for the plastic-making process, is the way it slowly builds a stunning metaphor for a family’s psychology.
The moody first part of “Knee Deep in a Kiss,” a solo for alto sax, inventively evoked the way a kiss can swallow up a lover. It begins softly and tentatively, swells to a growl, and eventually alternates lyrical notes with a mournful drone before ending on a very long sustained note.
Extraordinary breath control gave “Loop”--a nonstop six-minute solo punctuated with high-pitched, animal-like sounds--its magnetic, propulsive quality. Froot’s puffing and contracting cheeks were very much a part of the visceral, full-body quality of the piece.
Conversely, “Thirst”--the condom piece, which Froot danced in the nude--seemed over-long and oddly cloying. Despite its exposure, Froot’s body never really seemed vulnerable; he remained too much the fully-in-control showman. The gesture of leaving the precious sax in the arms of an audience member and waving goodbye reeked of hoary mime acts, and the alternately swelling and sagging condom was fitfully amusing at best.
Froot’s most fully danced piece was “Closer,” about the T-cell count of a friend with AIDS. The theme is obviously rife with anguish, but the standard-issue moves--swaying, falling and rolling--were more showy than meaningful. Memorable gesture occurred on a much smaller level: Froot kept repeating and expanding the friend’s poignant figure-eight (for eternity) farewell wave until it lost its shape.
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