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Clancy raises his grades with 'Summer Is Cork'

Dancer gets an A in classroom monologue; Smiarowski flunks.

August 04, 2003|Victoria Looseleaf | Special to The Times

There's no doubt that Liam Clancy would make a great sixth-grade teacher. But he makes an even better dancer. The former Elizabeth Streb/Ringside performer could give Miss Jean Brodie a run for her money, hitting scholarly notes familiar to anyone remembering a favorite instructor. In his dance monologue "The Summer Is Cork," presented Saturday night at Highways on a bill that also featured Kristen Smiarowski, Clancy proved a formidable presence.

Based on a short story by Michael Martone, the 30-minute "Cork," first presented in New York last year, began as a lecture, with the audience cast as students. Fernando Maneca's set -- half a dozen metal chair frames with vertical poles poking through them -- served the performer well. Once we were admonished for misspelling, Clancy, clad in khaki slacks and standard-issue blue shirt, dominated the classroom-cum-stage with Gene Kelly-like strides.

Musical selections -- including the Lincoln Navigator commercial theme and Chet Baker's "My Funny Valentine" -- accompanied Clancy's breezy moves: pliant lunges, preening poses, nonchalant turns. He also laced the poles with string, making a kind of cat's cradle for his cavorting. The "cork" of the title? The smell of bulletin boards, or possibly Ireland. Clancy spoke of female teachers who loved him, as well as asking such philosophical questions as, "If you were in the hospital, who would you want to see most?"

You, Clancy, if you keep dancing.

Smiarowski, on the other hand, served up an unappetizing portion of hackneyed performance art in the 15-minute premiere "Duet: A Trio." Collaborating with Douglas C. Wadle on slide trombone, Smiarowski flung herself over, under and around the phallic-looking instrument, with Wadle occasionally bleating out a series of sounds.

The previously reviewed "Attempts," performed by Smiarowski and Peter Carpenter, completed the program.

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