Joe Goode Performance Group
When We Fall Apart
Z Space, San Francisco
14 June 2012
Walking into the performance space, looking for my seat, I see that the stage is sandwiched between two sets of risers so that half the audience will gaze over the stage at the other half of the viewers. A broad swath of bright green runs across the floor and up the wall to the rafters. A structure of pine slats that looks like a house sits slightly off center and inside it are a small table with a lamp and a chair. Hanging upside down from the center of the ceiling is a tree. A large video screen floats mid-air where the green runs upward. So far, Joe Goode’s latest dance-theater work, When We Fall Apart, looks promising.
A solitary man, Goode himself, sits at the table and begins talking. His face is projected on the screen and he lists all the things that fall apart. What follows is a sequence of vignettes presented by small groups of dancers in rather repetitive and mundane choreography or Goode portraying a handful of men and women in a variety of wigs, hats, and glasses, telling their personal stories. The dancers manage to deliver brief interludes of intensity – Felipe Barrueto-Cabello breaks out into a short solo of strong martial arts-like moves, and Patricia West declares, “I feel like I’ve traveled 10,000 miles and I can’t get there” during her confrontation with her partner. The overall effect is of a patchwork quilt, not one of a dramatic build-up in an overarching design. I find myself really wanting to like this work, but the over-abundance of words trying to explain the ideas instead of solid choreographic structure showing them puts me off. Even the music, composed by Ben Juodvalkis and performed by the same with Ryan Huber, reflects this waffling between being too simplistic, even melodramatic, and being engaging.
If you refrain from reading any advance publicity or the program itself before you see this piece, then you will probably enjoy yourself and laugh very hard. After all, Goode is often extremely funny. But if you know ahead of time what he claims are his artistic goals for the production, by the end you may be a combination of some of these: disappointed, bewildered, incredulous, perplexed, even irritated. He doesn’t deliver the goods as advertised and I quote, “Has there ever been a moment when it all fell apart? When everything was shattered, dismantled, destroyed? Do the effects of that time still linger?…[When We Fall Apart] examines the intricate and fragile relationship between house and body, and the determination and resilience of the human spirit.” Sounds like pretty serious stuff with the potential to be insightful and moving, and yet what could be sympathetic characters are turned into hilarious caricatures and humour is used to avoid delving into deeper emotions. Just maybe that is how Goode himself manages to cope and survive this fickle creature called life.