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A 'Maverick' Frontier

Dance review: Joe Goode's piece plays with images of the mythical cowboy past, bending cliches with wit and style.


IRVINE — What can you do on days when staying in bed seems the best alternative? Because you're sick of seeing suffering, because you're tired of being marginalized and just because uphill was not the direction you thought you'd always have to go?

If you're Joe Goode Performance Group, you explore the mythical cowboy past and play with images of stoic men who were tall in the saddle but short on empathy, and the women who admired them but wished to heck that a man didn't have to do what a man had to do. Eventually, you'd find some inspiration, even from the shopworn cinematic image of sissy-phobic John Wayne.

Frontier cliches fell hot and heavy during "The Maverick Strain" on Thursday night at Irvine Barclay Theatre. But as is usual with Joe Goode, they were wittily bent and stylishly staged--with the aid of Nayland Blake's prairie-barren set hung with nooses and the onstage musicians who played Beth Custer's score, by turns melancholy, country-esque and jazzy.

Goode created the 80-minute piece with dancer-performers Felipe Barrueto-Cabello, Marc Morozumi and Vong Phrommala, who danced as the cowboy corps with guns in hand; and Marit Brook-Kothlow and Liz Burritt, who had some of the best vignettes, with spoken text married to seemingly random movement.


Still, dance and dialogue often seemed like distant cousins. A witty line or complex thought inevitably gave way to danced sections that smoothed over both fun and anxiety with wafting movement that was too much like regular breathing to keep one's attention.

In the end, the strongest message seemed to be that Wayne's stoicism, when reproduced with irony and cross-dressing, can inspire the weary. We actually do have to stay in the saddle, put one foot in front of the other.

Or, as Goode suggested with deadpan cowboy clarity, do as Wayne did when he felt justified rage or longing but had to soldier on--"He just kept thinkin' about the girl, but riding. . . ."

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