The intimate black box of the Good Good Comedy space in Chinatown is so new, you can still breathe the paint if you huff hard enough. Inside, four weirdly athletic dance-movement artists wriggle absurdly, and create even sillier, wrigglier refrigerator-magnet poetry. They eat liquidy fruits and spout forth the sort of academic, high-concept, theoretical John Cage-meets-Kate Bornstein-style rhetoric that dates the writers of Artforum to September 1981.
This is IAMMADEOFSTARS, the new show from Philadelphia's four-year-old Almanac Dance Circus Theatre (ADCT). Founded by two Pig Iron School grads, Nick Gillette (IAMMADEOFSTARS’ big talker) and Ben Grinberg (its messiest eater), with Headlong Performance Institute’s Adam Kerbel, this troupe has true chops when it comes to serious movement art. Each motion seems as well-heeled and deeply reckoned as its performers are improvisational and loose. Not everything ADCT does is funny, but everything they do is poignant, frenetic (in a cheerfully absurd fashion), and powerful.
Such study and seriousness makes lampooning art theory and movement theater so goofily humorous and rich. IAMMADEOFSTARS begins with Gillette hitting the stage from his seat in the audience while other members pick imaginary bugs and matches from their beards. Meanwhile, they spout forth (at least during my show) a healthy eight minutes' worth of self-absorbed art rhetoric the likes of which you’ve heard during more than a few post-Fringe show discussions (and yes, Nick Stuccio thinks these guys are hilarious, therefore making everything ADCT does meta to the max).
To satirize something so thoroughly in word and deed takes a handsome set of skills and furiously imaginative (but realist) funnybones.
After Gillette’s slow-spoken art blather, the barefoot (and eventually nearly bare-assed) quartet tumbles, bounces, rolls over each other’s backs, and crams each other’s groins into their faces while announcing, in deathly deadpan voices, “it’s not what it looks like.” When they wrap themselves in black gauze and move en masse, the subject of the lightness and the dark – the battles within polar opposites – gets examined and repeated in John Giorno-esque fashion. By the time they move on to eating raw veggies in unison (“if I had purpose, this would be delicious,” says Grinberg), it seems as if ADCT have happily gone through all the motions of being a modernist movement troupe at the end of its conceptual rope.