At the heart of Déjá Vu," a compact, highly imaginative theater piece that opened this week at Fort Lewis College,Patrick Wiabel has a mesmerizing solo.
On a bare stage he enters with a silver hoop and dances as if he were Atlas holding up the world. A gifted actor who
has been seen in any number of FLC productions, most notably in last year's Raised in Captivity," Wiabel here
demonstrates his abilities as an expressive dancer. His solo eventually morphs into a complex ensemble piece filled
with more dancers, more hoops and geometric patterns. It's all underscored by elaborate visual and vocal projections of
mathematical equations. When the ensemble finally exits, Wiabel is left alone again. He abandons his hoop and lets it
slowly collapse, rhythmically spinning all the way to silence. That's merely one example of many charged moments in
this intense one-hour production.
Déjá Vu" is the creative offspring of Kari Margolis, who in partnership with Tony Brown, has come to Durango to cast a
six-week spell on the FLC Theatre Ensemble. Offering workshops, classes and a chance to create a collaborative theater
piece, Margolis and Brown are part of the new way theater is taught across the country - expert entrepreneurs dropping
in as artists-in-residence.
They met in 1975, performed together for seven years abroad and in the United States, and formed a company in the
mid-'80s. Margolis creates her own thematic material, which has the flexibility to be transformed by whatever company
or school she works with. She's also developed the Margolis Method for training actors.
It's three-dimensional, organic, and extremely physical," she said in an interview after the dress rehearsal. Blending
vocal, emotional and physical components into a unified whole, the method ideally teaches new ways of working and new
skill sets that can be applied to any dramatic work. After seeing many of the FLC students in earlier productions, I
would say Margolis accomplished what she set out to do.
The dreamscape orchestrated by Margolis in Déjá Vu" may be fluid in nature, but it has a definite structure. This is
not a play but a hybrid of dance, music, visual projections and small bits of text. As an evocation of dreams, it
unfolds like a surrealistic revue.
At rise, three sleepers sprawl under a moon flanked by two enormous wing projections where clouds and airplanes begin
to fly. One thing morphs into another, and soon a bed rolls on stage and a bizarre mother frightens her child with a
confusing bedtime story. Fear takes over in a one-against-the-many nightmare, followed by mysterious red-clad sleepers
darting in and out of tall shutters. Treadmill dreams of men and machines morph into mysterious leave-taking. People
become blocked, pushed and caged. Babies are born and a nightmare mother alternately cradles and pushes her infant
away. The man-in-the-moon appears on a disc and talks to a dreamer. Perhaps the students funneled their dreams into the
Margolis structure and came out with this scary and comical fantasy.
The work is not without humor, especially a long scene in which all cast members use only two words and a door to
suggest a multitude of human dilemmas. You're either in or you're out, buddy.
Like in" and out," other odd bits of text occasionally emerge from the texture of the piece. Sometimes they are
effective if murky. Other times, they seem unnecessary. Three slow stage crosses performed by one actor or many
function as little entr'actes. They allow for a scene change behind the curtain and are also small philosophical
inserts: You only die once," But for such a long time," Rest is for the dead." Or Sleep is so good," Death is even
One section features an exercise ball, an ordinary" prop that links to the title. The ball is passed or taken by one
actor after another, and quotations about Fate are not far behind. My Fate is pulling me" leads into what has to be a
parody of Western drama: It's my tragic flaw."
Toward the end, two fairy tale beds roll out on stage with two dreamers who perform a wonderful dance. This pas de deux
is as graceful as two ballet dancers who spin, come together, touch, separate and sleep. They may not jump or perform
an arabesque, but they promenade and turn as elegantly as if they were in tights instead of bed sheets. More tumultuous
drama follows before a spellbinding conclusion. You'll have to see for yourself.