Tuesday, October 8, 2019

"The Hollow" is Anything But

I know it didn't work out this time, but can we have a little Ichabod Crane again later?  

Photo courtesy of Trademark Theater

Sometimes I think my mind exists in a vortex and I'll never catch up.

Let me explain: in my busy day to day of late, I seem to be missing basic facts. Or themes. Or just really missing the point of what I'm supposed to be doing.

For example, I had the pleasure of attending the achingly lovely original piece The Hollow by Trademark Theater last weekend. It's a nifty, 75-minute long exploration of many things; the program lists themes including "nature, mysticism, death and rebirth, coupleship, abandonment, repair and perseverance." A symbiotic pairing of contemporary dance and a Sleater Kinney-meets-First Aid Kit rock album (don't ask how I got there, just trust that it's true), The Hollow would be fully at home in the Walker Art Center's Out There series (hey Walker, give Trademark a call!). There's not really more plot than that - just a pure aesthetic, auditory experience for the sake of itself.

Somewhere along the line I had caught that The Hollow was supposed to be a modernization of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow; another glance at the program says I'm not insane and that was the initial point, but this The Hollow is so far removed from Washington Irving's 1820 novel that I can't believe the original concept was still rattling around my head somewhere. I still think it would be immensely cool to have Ichabod Crane hit the stage sometime soon and I hope someone else picks up the original project, but in the meantime - back to the scheduled programming.

The visual focus of The Hollow is on Reach (Emily Michaels King) and Resist (Tyler Michaels King). Based purely on appearances, one could be forgiven for assuming The Hollow details the story of a fraught romantic relationship. These two are superb dancers, and their lithe choreography is like a poem in bodily form. It's a good thing they're married because this performance is extremely intimate, and you can feel their kinetic energy radiating from the stage. Their contemporary, abstract costumes, designed by Sarah Bahr, add interesting shapes to their performances too; some are angular and stiff, others soft and flowing, and the cumulative effect weaves in and out of focus like a dream.

The Michaels Kings are backed up by an adroit band starring Jenna Wyse and Joey Ford who sing a roving troupe of original songs. It's a little hard to hear the lyrics live but thankfully all audience members are given a handy book of lyrics, which read like a ghoulish internal voice that won't leave you alone (song titles such as "Fearful Shapes," "Skele-bones + Burial Wrongs," "Scry" or "Scary Situation" give you an idea what I mean). The music itself is really beautiful and haunting, and I can see how it evolved out of the initial idea of adapting The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Several audience members appeared raptly focused throughout the show (the person next to me even got a few headbangs in), so don't just take my word for it.

I'm not really sure what else I can say about The Hollow other than that it's worth seeing, if only to expand your definition of what you think theater can or should be. It's bracingly modern yet feels familiar, lyrical and abrasive, loud and tender. It's not going to give you a story or a moral or a "point," but it won't not give you those things either - and really, does everything have to have a defined outcome? Sometimes it's good to set down your smart phone and your Ivy Lee method and your nonfiction business books to give your subconscious room to roam, your nose the chance to smell the tactile pages of a *gasp* real book, and your imagination a blank page to fly around in. The Hollow is a celebration of that ancient leap towards fantasy that still lies within us all - we just need to give ourselves room to access it. The Hollow has a very short run and closes on October 20, so click here to learn more or buy your tickets now.

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