Dutch 'Happy Endings' is a quirky delight especially for movie buffs

January 28, 1994|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

"Happy Endings," an evening-length performance by the Rotterdam-based Onafhankellijk Tonell that opened at the Theatre Project Wednesday night, is a thoroughly enjoyable production. Not only does it seek to draw back the curtain that separates the worlds of fantasy and reality. It also challenges the audience to remember snatches of dialogue or bits of action from our favorite films.

Part of the fun is not only the clever script or the emotional Technicolor score, or even the accomplished accompaniment of musician Joost Belinfante, but the interpretation of these charming and talented 10 Dutch artists who ably characterize familiar film stars.

The premise is as quirky as a Truffaut film. Two veteran movie house usherettes whose frame of reference is the realm of cinema hold a party for a select number of film aficionados, who bury their own identities underneath layers of characters. The result is an amalgam of dialogue and dance that careens in and out of philosophical dialogues, gritty sexual encounters and overt violence.

Artistic director Tom Lutgerink nicely paces his work and expertly bridges words and movements. Dialogue and dance work with each other, one often elucidating the other. Scenes frequently overlap, giving the feel of a film that has been spliced together by an editor with a perverse sense of humor. At one point the dancers square-dance a la "Oklahoma" when dancers Amy Gale and John Taylor square off for a shootout. In slow-motion, Peckinpah style, they decimate all the dancers, then do in each other.

In another segment, Fabian Galama and Marcelo Evelin wrestle with their sexuality, as their holds give way to embraces. In a tribute to "The Red Shoes," Irma Baatje determinedly dances through self-realization.

Throughout the piece, the performers reveal themselves through their identification with their roles. Yet the audience is never totally engaged in their mini-dramas -- we remain observers, almost voyeurs to their behavior, and we try to sort out the meanings.

The lines between fantasies and reality blur, until one of the characters admits that "we are locked up in our own movie memories," and they look for a means of release.

"Happy Endings"

Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

When: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; all-access performance Sunday at 3 p.m. at Cafe Nirvana, 1727 N. Charles St.

Tickets: $14, $8 for students and seniors

Call: (410) 752-8558

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