Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Carte Postale: Joe Goode

Having spent the afternoon at play with a little friend, I was perhaps in exactly the right mood to enjoy Joe Goode Performance Group Sunday evening at YBCA. The two pieces on the program were so heartfelt, almost embarassingly nostalgic, with very little of the suggestive, abstract, 'what the hell' qualities that usually turn me on. Goode tells stories--concrete stories--and he embraces some common clichés, yet he presents the familiar in playful, unpredictable ways. "Stay Together," a new work with music by Michael Tilson Thomas, at times reminded me of a dinner party conversation: friends fret and fantasize, and nag and support each other, over that ever-favorite of "R" words--RELATIONSHIPS. The topic could easily become silly and irreverent gossip, but Goode keeps it profound (lightly so) by teasing just enough universal truth from the matters at hand.

"Deeply There," meanwhile, moves along in vignette form, examining various characters' responses to the moribund presence of AIDS in their community. Like "Stay Together," "Deeply There" integrates several art forms, including dance, musical theatre, and video, but never with that sort of self-conscious seriousness that too often plagues the multi-media performance. The whole, performed cheekily by Goode's committed ensemble, assumes more of a vaudevillian quality, eliciting laughter because the play with the material is so sincere. Goode understands that humor and play and naïvete, when lavished on topics of "great" contemporary relevance, can tug more insistently on one's heartstrings than a stoic monologue or a theatrically emoted demonstration of grief. It was precisely that levity (and brevity, too; for the most part, Goode keeps the pace brisk and never allows a cliché moment--Jackie O, Jackie O--to wear too thin) that allowed me to giggle and so honestly say, "I saw Joe Goode Performance Group last night...and I loved it! He's not provocative, but that boy knows how to play!"


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