Written and Choreographed by Yehuda Hyman
Produced by LABA and Mystical Feet Company
Off Off Broadway, Dance
Runs through 12.18.16
The 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street
by Katharine Nedder on 12.9.16
Ryan Pater, Ezra Lowrey, Yehuda Hyman, Amanda Schussel, Dwight Richardson Kelly, and Ron Kagan in The Mar Vista.
Photo by Ethan Hill.
BOTTOM LINE: A creative exploration of, and tribute to, an outstanding, ordinary woman.
The Mar Vista tells the story of Yehuda Hyman’s mother and how her influence on him during his childhood in Mar Vista, California shaped young Hyman into the man he is today. The story opens with a short solo dance piece by Hyman describing the importance of the five fingers; the points serve as a loose outline for the rest of the story. Hyman’s movements are electric; his body comes alive even with the movement of only one finger. He has an energy and presence about him that open the performance on a strong note.
He then brings in the rest of the cast for a short dance/text piece about his father (played by Ron Kagan) before speaking to the audience directly to inform us of the true subject of the piece—a tribute to his deceased mother. This is done using an oversized notepad, with each page giving a new fact about his mother; some disconcerting ("This question mark reminds me of my mother’s boob"), others heartbreaking ("I’m trying to write a piece for my mother…my mother passed away six years ago"). This is a complete contrast from the energy and liveliness Hyman opened the piece with and brings home the depth of his relationship with his mother.
What follows is a text/dance based journey through his mother’s life, beginning with her childhood and early affairs, occasionally breaking to show scenes which seem to be snippets from the rehearsal room, another effective use of contrast. Amanda Schussel dances beautifully as Hyman’s mother and his gaze on her as the show progresses is heartbreaking; the joy and sadness give the impression that he’s reuniting with his actual mother through the piece. Kagan beautifully plays Hyman’s father, a tailor and endearing lover hopelessly in love with Hyman’s mother. He is a true joy to watch. That said, the first act feels extremely long as every detail from Hyman’s mother’s youth to her wedding day seems to be covered. As she moves through adolescence into early adulthood she has a number of affairs, all of which become sexualized dance pieces. Hyman’s watchful eye makes these dances quite uncomfortable; not only do the dancers look tense, but the thought of Hyman observing his mother’s sex life took me, at least, out of the story.
The second act ties in Hyman’s life story with that of his mother, beginning with an adorable grade school Hyman (Dwight Richardson Kelly) walking to school and giving the audience a "tour" of his neighbors and neighborhood. This is a standout, choreographed in a way that makes it seem the stage is moving, and syncs the appearance of new characters realistically with Kelly’s footsteps. Each cast member takes on the quirky characters of the neighborhood effortlessly, and Kelly’s innocence and acceptance of even his oddest neighbors make this charming. Much like Act 1, Act 2 seems a bit long, until Hyman grows up. Adult Hyman, played by Hyman himself, goes back to visit his mother. Her age and mental deterioration are apparent and in one poignant scene, he tries to give her a bath; his love and tenderness towards her and her fear in response are both tragic and realistic. After his mother’s death, Hyman takes a journey to Istanbul in an attempt to find the island of Antigone, his mother’s favorite place. There, he encounters a guard (Ryan Pater) with whom he has an interesting chemistry, leaving the audience at the edge of their seats to find out what happens between the two.
Though It could do with some cuts, The Mar Vista is a fascinating story about an amazing, yet ordinary woman—a tribute any mother would be proud of.
(The Mar Vista plays at The 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street, through December 18, 2016. The running time is two hours with an intermission. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 3. Tickets are $18 in advance, $22 at the door, and are available at 14streety.org. For more information visit mysticalfeetcompany.org.)
The Mar Vista is by Yehuda Hyman. Choreography by Yehuda Hyman. Assistant Directed/Choreographed by Adin Walker. Set and Lighting Design by Kryssy Wright. Sound Design and Additional Music by Ezra Lowrey. Stage Manager is Jenna R. Lazar.
The cast is Yehuda Hyman, Ron Kagan, Dwight Richardson Kelly, Ezra Lowrey, Ryan Pater, and Amanda Schussel.