It would be hard not to think of '60s and '70s counterculture while watching "Entertainment for the Apocalypse," which opened Thursday at Highways in Santa Monica. Created by the San-Francisco based dance-theater collective called CORE, the piece began with a guerrilla-theater-like prologue on 18th Street and continued indoors with scenes that were drenched in particular notions of going with--or against--the flow.
CORE--made up of Jess Curtis, Jules Beckman, Stephanie Maher, Keith Hennessy and Stanya Kahn --sometimes builds interestingly on concepts from the Woodstock era. Movement grounded in contact improvisation--with its emphasis on touch, shifting weight and the controlled floppiness of limbs that swing wide--is refined into dances that have kinetic force. The cast takes turns on percussion or fuzzy electric guitar that recalls the Jefferson Airplane at its most manic.
With painted faces, mismatched thrift-store attire and non-sequitur dialogue, CORE also recalls the counterculture idea that insane or naive behavior sometimes seems an appropriate response to modern society gone mad. There were surprise attacks, sudden weeping and occasional monologues (a brilliant one in a bathtub) or scenes of despair (when a corpse is angrily hit with flowers) that caught just the right ironic or devastated tone.
Then there were the scenes that made you wish no one had ever made childish wonder and glee an aesthetic priority. Just one of the dangers of working in a post-Woodstock tradition.
* "Entertainment for the Apocalypse," Highways, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, tonight and Sunday, 8:30 p.m. $15. (213) 660-8587.