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IMPRESSIONS: Witness Relocation

IMPRESSIONS: Witness Relocation
Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram

By Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram
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Published on January 18, 2012

"I'm Going to Make A Small Incision Behind Your Ear To Check And See If Your'e Actually Human" — REDUX

IMPRESSIONS: Witness Relocation

I’m Going to Make A Small Incision Behind Your Ear to Check and See If You’re Actually Human Redux
Dance New Amsterdam
Saturday January 14th at 8pm

Directed and Choreographed by: Dan Safer

Starring and Co-Created by: Nikki Calonge, Emily Emily Davis, Mike Mikos, Will Petre, Sam Pinkleton, Kourtney Rutherford, and Will Seefried

Music: by Various Artists all pre-recorded

Projections by: Kaz Phillips Safer

Lights by :Jay Ryan Sound: by Ryan Maekar andDan Safer

Assistant Director: Ben Gullard

Christine Jowers for The Dance Enthusiast

You know that it’s going to be a different kind of evening when you walk into Dance New Amsterdam's theater for a performance and meet the choreographer/director standing in the seats clutching a huge bottle of whisky and swigging away. As the house music blasts and the cast bumps and grinds on stage, Dan Safer bellows to no one in particular, “It’s really cheap and horrible stuff,” and “You look like you want some,” He points the jug of brown stuff to me. It’s not stage booze: it’s real. Can’t miss that 100 proof smell. Wonder what this evening will be like?

Witness Relocation in ...Incision... Photo Sue Kessler

Dan Safer’s Witness Relocation Production of I’m Going to Make A Small Incision Behind Your Ear to Check and See If You’re Actually Human Redux ( the production was originally developed and presented at The Bushwick Starr, in Brooklyn) examines all the things humans do, and think, and say, at once, from making-out to reciting Shakespeare. The hilariously odd, sometimes cringe-inducing, house party, game show, science experiment is carved up into a series of wacky segments whose order is pre- determined by the audience through a card draw. Safer controls the random stream of events expertly with a jolting buzzer.

Dan Safer may be perfumed with booze but the man definitely has his wits about him...

The cast throw themselves into every scene with head-on ferocity. Operating in the mode of barely structured improvisation, nothing is predictable to them, or us, which adds to the excitement. One particularly favorite moment, is a re-occurring sketch in which Emily Emily Davis (yes, that’s two Emily’s) brilliantly portrays a wooden, B-movie,science fiction heroine, who, no matter what her challenges, faces them narcissistically with a stiff monotone, cocked eyebrows, and a self-serious stance.

From what I gather, as we are watching the show, alien reptiles are watching us. But who’s who?The lizard performers (ok they’re humans wearing masks…suspend your disbelief for a second) stand behind the human performers and mimic their gestures. Safer, out of sight, at mission control, shouts questions to the performers. “How do you think you’ll die?” “What do you do to be seductive?” As we watch the answers come alive we are treated to provocative video images: among them, the multiple faces of the cast flashing by and slowly morphing from human to reptile.Kaz Phillips Safer’s striking video designs amplify the pieces alien aura.

Witness Relocation in ...Incision... Photo Sue Kessler

Every choppy, random episode examines the characters’ humanity, as if they exist in assorted Petri dishes. Catherine Peila, DNA’s executive director, welcomes the audience and introduces the show towards the end of the evening (that’s how the cards worked it out). Just as she begins her sweet pitch to ask us for money BUZZZZZ.It’s over. This is what the head of a non-profit looks like to space lizards, and apparently they have no patience for human financial appeals. (I am sure that’s because in their universe the arts are supported.)

Dan Safer may be perfumed with booze but the man definitely has his wits about him. He knows how to direct mayhem, entertain and provoke and likes to bust genres with his dance, martial arts, theatrical, and improvisational offerings. The last time I saw him and his explosively talented Witness Relocation company was in 2006 at La Ma Ma, in Dancing VS the Rat Experiment. Like this piece, that one was a carnival of disparate images, in which non- human animals had something to tell us about ourselves. From what I remember, though, the rats seemed to touch on deeper existential questions and therefore, touched me. I am very sorry to have missed the production of Charles L. Mee’s“Heaven On Earth,” which I understand was superb. Next time Witness Relocation goes on a trip, I will be there. They are a company not to be missed—even if you don’t particularly like cheap whisky.


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