“Do you find you’re alone most of the time?” “Do you understand your rightful place in the world?” “Do you love your siblings?” “Do you wish that you could be somebody else?” Performers hurl questions at individual spectators, weaving their way through the audience and immediately engaging us in what will be a whirlwind experience.
Do you ever wish you were better at things? That’s the title of the show director/ choreographer Brian Carbine has created with the Brendalinda Performance Collaborative. But the most significant question Carbine and company have been grappling with may be: How do you encourage spectators, who are used to sitting quietly in the dark, to participate? Intent on changing perceptions about what performance can be, Carbine has, for the second time, elected to work in the Charlie LaCroix LePop Gallery instead of a traditional venue. Carbine doesn’t try to keep people on the edge of their seats–he’s not providing seats.
Performances occur throughout the space, and when a scene changes, the audience moves, as it did in Carbine’s recent staging of Woyzeck, a coproduction of Brendalinda and the New Theatre Project. This time, Brendalinda uses music, visual effect, dance, and dialogue; each sequence draws on a different combination of elements, transpiring in different areas of the room the company has designed to create a bedroom, a supermarket, and more. Scenes are juxtaposed in ways that move us emotionally as well as literally; at turns, we are engrossed in slices of life that are humorous, disturbing, and heartbreaking. Sometimes, our emotions shift within a scene, as when a young woman (Emily Roll) dances at her prom and enjoys a rush of applause before the evening takes on a sinister feel, and not in a melodramatic way. Luna Alexander, a first-rate performer and director, wrote two of the evening’s pieces, proving herself a strong and challenging playwright as well. As Madame Curie, she exposes the suffering beneath the surface of an accomplished woman.
For all the evening’s variety, there is one constant: the troupe is always courageous, always honest–a standard set by Carbine, who delights throughout. An imaginative force in the Southeast Michigan arts community, Carbine is also a videographer and performance artist. He was a dance major at EMU before switching to arts administration, then choreographing college musicals. He also directs and choreographs student shows at Huron High School and area theaters, and he has been staging benefit shows for Creative Rights, a legal organization that offers services to artists and arts groups. But participatory performance art is his passion, and he is turning Brendalinda into a company of committed artists who will work in unique venues, here and on tour. The show runs through February 2 and should not be missed.