Photo by Keith Ian Polakoff
California Repertory’s Move: The History of a Hand, continuing at Cal State Long Beach’s (CSULB) Studio Theatre through Dec. 8, is an exhilarating 70 minutes of dance and rhythmic acrobatic movement with an emphasis on hands. While the second part of its title might suggest a chronological narrative of our extremities, it’s the first part–– “Move”–– that defines this dynamic, nonlinear production.
An ensemble of 12 performers– Luiza Castellucci Cedroni, Sarah Culotta, Ayla Decaire, Riky Garcia, Alyssa Hall, Shardae Jefferson, Megan McKane, Lino Mora, Javen Phillips, Louis Shepardson, Tara Webster and Adriana Zatarain– who helped create the production with CSULB’s Head of Movement, Ezra LeBank, work exceptionally fluidly and comfortably together in near constant interaction.
Tossing and catching, twirling and pulling at each other in various scenarios– from random encounters to group warfare to a stylized series of scenes on a train made of chairs– the players engage in multiple forms of dance and storytelling through movement, periodically engaging the audience as well.
The performers’ hands are sometimes spotlighted, and engage in a dance all their own using green fluorescent lighting. And they are certainly used to full advantage in the players’ collective movements, including handstands, cartwheels and one particularly inventive and breathtaking vignette in which the performers form a moving half-wheel, pulling each other from the floor to standing and back down again in continuous movement.
Because the performance does not depend on language, only occasional murmurs and nonverbal sounds, Cal Rep states that it’s appropriate for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences as well as those for whom English is not a first language. However, they advise about a strobe-lighting effect during an entertaining slow-motion sequence.
Instead of language, voluble rhythmic music in various genres (designed by Mimi Daniel) drives the dancers, as well as precisely coordinated lighting changes (Nathan Hawkins). The players are clad in simple clothing in muted colors (Franklin Hansen) that permit a full range of movement, as well as black hoodies that allow their hands to take center stage at times and suggest anonymity while on the train.
To see such talented young performers working so gracefully, playfully, respectfully and naturally together in Move: The History of a Hand is a true pleasure– a clear result of the six weeks of time and effort it took to develop every aspect of the program. By the end, each of their personalities has become familiar and one misses them upon leaving, hands and all.
Move: The History of a Hand continues at the Studio Theatre in CSULB’s Theatre Arts Building, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., through Dec. 8, with shows Tuesday through Friday at 7:30pm, Saturday at 2pm and 7:30pm, and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $18 to $23. For tickets and information, call (562) 985-5526 or visit calrep.org.