Contemporary dance can be intimidating for some. They avoid it because it makes them feel irrelevant or ignorant. Don’t avoid Lucky Plush Production’s “The Better Half.”
Using the 1944 film “Gaslight” as a launch pad, the work is an interesting theatrical discourse on the twists and turns of life and relationships. Audiences who come to the show because they are fans of the film noir classic may be a little surprised, because the theater piece is not so much a telling of the story but a sort of deconstruction in which the characters dismiss their assigned roles.
The dancers are assigned to play characters in “Gaslight,” and when they do so at the beginning, it all goes a little slowly and plainly. But when their roles start to switch back and forth, and eventually blur together — that’s when the best of the show really gets started.
Thought “The Better Half” tries to tackle some of life’s big issues — such as truth, love and identity — humor is a very important seasoning throughout the process. A combination of dance and drama can be tricky, but here the lines spoken by the characters are a lot more significant than mere supplements to the choreography.
The dancers deliver high-energy choreography and do a fair job engaging the audience. Francisco Avina, the male dancer who plays Nancy the maid, drove a lot of the dynamics on stage. His elegant, precise body movements combined with a look of constant perplexity on his face created an exciting contrast the audience loved.
Lighting designer Heather Gilbert deserves credit for creating endless possibilities from the all-black stage. A series of effective lighting divided and reconstructed the space into various shapes, which provided a dynamic environment for the dancers. If the show was about breaking the cages modern people seem trapped in, it couldn’t have worked as well without these fleeting, unpredictable little squares.
Vinny Y. Huang is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.