Dance parodies poke fun at human interactions

January 20, 1994|By J.L. Conklin | J.L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

What a great idea -- joining together the dance/theater group, ISO (I'm So Optimistic) and the vocal group, The Bobs. It's a match made in parody heaven. Many others obviously felt the same, for despite, the icy weather, fans flocked to the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater Tuesday evening to be warmed by a performance that had the audience laughing, singing and nodding with wry recognition.

Watching ISO is like watching a Gary Larsen "Far Side" cartoon come to life.

The four dancers -- Ashley Roland, Cathy Calhoun, Brian Frette and Dan Weltman -- adhere to a theatrical style of performance and choreography that has its roots in the quirky athleticism of Momix.

From the wacky opening of "Psycho-Killer" to the exploration of condominium relationships in "Through the Wall" and "The Blind Venetians," ISO proves not only to be tuned in to our cultural in-jokes, they broadcast their findings with outrageous wit.

The Bobs -- Matthew "Bob" Stull, Janie "Bob" Scott, Richard "Bob" Greene and Joe "Bob" Finetti -- sing a cappella with mellifluous harmony and stinging wit. They tap into all forms of music, from jazz to rap, and their subjects range from the renditions of old rock classics such as "Come Together" to original works like "Spontaneous Human Combustion."

Part of ISO's charm is how they manipulate props, from Venetian blinds and car headlamps to foam rubber costumes. One never knows what this group will do next, which fork in the road they will take.

The first half of the evening, 11 works dealt with human relationships -- from the sadistic to the romantic. The second half was comprised of "29.95: A MALL ODYSSEY," an overview of mall culture presented in 13 vocal or dance works.

While individual segments were more or less ingenious, the overall effect at times felt contrived. However, one can overlook this orchestration when laughing out loud.

Perhaps the most precious segments were three that dealt with those ubiquitous video arcades. "Ninja Arcade I, II and III" had Mr. Frette and Mr. Weltner bowing and trying to destroy each other with imaginary swords, acid, etc.

"Malls on the Moon" with its winding patterns and clever use of portable fluorescent lights was also above par, and the closing "Come Together," a mimed version of the Beatles song, was a gentle reminder that for many of us the mall is where we connect.

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