BOTTOM LINE: Gormanzee and Other Stories is meaningful inter-dicsciplinary theatre. It's certainly weird...but in a good way.
The production company anna&meredith created cross-disciplinary performances incorporating theatre, dance and other fun touches. Their latest offering is a selection of three totally separate pieces that fit together in terms of sensibility, although not necessarily content. Gormanzee and Other Stories is one of those unassuming and unpredictable shows - you can't really know what you're in for until you see it for yourself. It's not that it's out of reach or overly-artsy, it's just clever and surprising.
The three "stories" in question include a dance piece about restaurant life called "Bill It," a dramatic play with movement called "The House on the Shore" and the titular "Gormanzee" which involves a many-foot tall gorilla puppet that takes three people to make move. It's almost not worth going into much detail, as it's exciting to experience these performances without expectations, but in the interest of piquing your interest, here is a bit more information.
The entire company of eight is in "Bill It" and they play everything from restaurant patrons, to a seasoned hostess to a newly hired hostess, to a disgruntled waitress. They encompass the restaurant industry to a tee. Through dance, movement and text, the ensemble shows a night in this restaurant - nuances and ridiculousness are front and center. If you've ever worked in this industry, there is much to relate to. The energy in "Bill It" is pumping, and with a lot of interesting, gestural choreography by Meredith Steinberg, this piece is always compelling. There is also a playfulness about the whole situation - the cast never take themselves or their work too seriously, yet they perform with easy and joy. Of the three pieces in the show, "Bill It" was my favorite. The manner in which the text and movement intertwine to tell this story is incredibly well-crafted.
"The House on the Shore" is the serious of the three pieces. It was a nice contrast to the other two, and the partnering work between performers Elisa Matula and Nathan Richard Wagner is lovely. However, it is dramatic, sad, and employs repetition to tell the story, and really you're just impatiently awaiting the arrival of the
BIG GORILLA PUPPET at the center of the third and last piece, "Gormanzee." As expected, the gorilla was awesome. Puppet designer Erin Smith deserves major props (pun intended) for this monstrosity. And a quick shout out to puppet master Amy Micallef's Etsy page - organbank.etsy.com - irreverence and cuteness make quite a team with her collection of plush human organs. Anyway, "Gormanzee" is a fun, sketch of a show involving the slaying and dissecting of a gorilla, a human, and (presumably) a chimpanzee, all for the sake of a really great punch-line.
I am totally impressed by the work that anna&meredith and this able ensemble create. The production maintains a professionalism and trustworthiness, all the while letting loose, having fun, and not taking itself too seriously. This is quite a feat for a young company purposely pushing the creative envelope. While not entirely cohesive, the production appeals on various levels and consistently surprises the audience.
(Gormanzee & Other Stories plays at The Flea, 41 White Street in Tribeca, through July 25th. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 9pm, and Sundays at 7pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at ovationtix.com or by calling 212.352.3101. For more show info visit theflea.org or annaandmeredith.com.)