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IMPRESSIONS: Sean Donovan and Sebastián Calderón Bentin's "The Reception" at HERE with Jane Comfort, Leslie Cuyjet, Hannah Heller and Ishmael Houston-Jones

IMPRESSIONS: Sean Donovan and Sebastián Calderón Bentin's "The Reception" at HERE with Jane Comfort, Leslie Cuyjet, Hannah Heller and Ishmael Houston-Jones
Melanie Greene/Follow @MethodsDance on Twitter

By Melanie Greene/Follow @MethodsDance on Twitter
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Published on July 7, 2017
Photo: Maria Baranova

June 23, 2017

HERE, New York, NY

Created: Sean Donovan and Sebastián Calderón Bentin in collaboration with the company

Co-Directed: Sean Donovan and Sebastián Calderón Bentin

Performed: Jane Comfort, Leslie Cuyjet, Sean Donovan, Hannah Heller, Ishmael Houston-Jones

Set Design: Neal Wilkinson / Costume Design: Felix Ciprián

Lighting Design: Amanda K. Ringger / Sound Design: Brandon Wolcott and Tyler Kieffer

Stage Managed: Randi Rivera / Assistant Stage Managed: Caroline D’Angelo /Technical Direction: Carl Whipple


Yes, I’m here for the reception!

Sean Donovan and Sebastián Calderón Bentin’s The Reception presented by HERE ignites party-vibes and acts as the perfect escape for wallflowers.  

Patrons arrive to bright lights and the syncopated thumping of club music. A sleek circular wooden platform floats in the center of the room. Atop this pedestal sits an assortment of household items: an illuminated world globe, a two-sectioned sofa, a woven rug, a nautical signal tripod, and crates of glass jars jammed with colorful contents. Bottles of wine and drinking glasses ricochet light off of silver serving platters on a table nestled to the side.

The cast calmly walks to their places. Shades of indigo hug their frames as they slip into a long suspension. They snap from this dream state into emphatic partygoers: wiggling, gyrating, and chatting while sipping of sloshing liquid.

Each participant adds to the collective euphoric vibe like coasting on a broken roller coaster in a land of lollipops and libations. Under this fun, though, lies an ominous foreboding.

Three women in evening gown sits on a couch and watch one woman gesture her arm high in the air. Two stand in the background speaking intently.
L-R: front: Hannah Heller, Leslie Cuyjet, Jane Comfort; back: Sean Donovan and Ishmael Houston-Jones. Photo: Maria Baranova

Their conversations become audible. Jane Comfort animates about ageism, Leslie Cuyjet recalls a tale of street harassment, Hannah Heller agonizes about the state of her “brand,” Ishmael Houston-Jones throws shade to million-dollar condos in Alphabet City, and Donovan obsesses about tarts. In a tragic loop, these scenes repeat with increasing exacerbation.

A perilous sound galvanizes everyone, except Heller, to push the furniture to the edges of the space. She doesn’t hear anything and jams her head into the sofa cushion with uncertainty. They reconvene for a dance sequence, accumulating in and out of unison, walking back and forth along a straight line facing the audience. Biceps press into their sides, hands relax, knees soften, step together, step cross.

The sinister sound returns, and they find the source underneath a floorboard. Neon blue light spills from the now-empty rectangular space. Frantically, they return the plank and pile all the furniture on top. If they suppress it, then it’s not real.

The performers in mid cackle. One, in a plaid suit sits on his knees and tilts his head back, another sits on the couch about to slap his knee and women with her mouth agape
L-R: Ishmael Houston-Jones, Sean Donovan and Hannah Heller. Photo: Maria Baranova

They manage several walking revolutions around the stacked mass. Each meditative pass is punctuated with changes to their focus and body positions. We’ve returned to another loop.

So enthralling is this moving sedation that a new transformation almost escapes our consciousness. The platform becomes a ship with a giant sail. The creaking of wet planks circles us with buoyant sound waves.

The performers respond with unified delight and suppressed recognition of the impending shipwreck. They remain comfortable, yet weary in the company of their tipsy comrades. Lights fade, and only the glow of the world globe remains.

We are left to contemplate the consequences of their conduct. If we are all on this sinking ship, do we party on the way down or build a life raft? Given our current political climate, my vote (and I think Donovan and Bentin would agree) is for the latter. The uncertainty of their survival mimics our own. It’s unclear if they persevered or perished.


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