The serious and the ironic -- not to mention the mundane -- were all represented at the opening of the third annual three-week multidisciplinary New Original Works Festival (NOW) at the REDCAT on Thursday. A boon for the city, this celebration of cherry-picked talents kicked off with a mix of straight theater, stylized movement, live music and Cher-worthy costuming in a two-hour program that, while not wholly knock-'em-dead, nevertheless proved mostly provocative.
Particularly impressive was "Sacred Cow," Michael Sakamoto's audacious 20-minute butoh solo set to the seductive sounds of Amy Knoles, performed live by the composer on computer and keyboard, her mallet-swinging as riveting to watch as to hear. Sakamoto, shedding an array of Carry Kim's breakaway attire, alternated from loose-limbed gangliness to frozen-faced smiley dude.
With shredded pantaloons and oddball hat, Sakamoto was a soldier in the war of life. Fluttering under white tulle, he became a gawky caped crusader, a Ginza flapper. Haughty, Sakamoto unleashed his ponytail into a swirling flamenco flip, Knoles thumping with sticks a la Ginger Baker; together their volcanic eruptions created a perfect bravura blend.
Also in sync: Stacy Dawson Stearns and Tim Cummings, the Outsiders, in "IV," a dance theater parody so deliciously bad it soared. Warbling Leonard Cohen's "God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot," they stripped from black velvet robes to execute robotic machinations in shiny silver unitards: In their version of "America's Got Talent," they cartwheeled, plied, posed and bounced around like brats on a bed, all in deadly earnest.
Unfortunately, a trio of hooded, ball-gowned creatures clunked about aimlessly, a time-killing device that allowed Dawson Stearns to don a pregnant belly and Martha Graham topknot, Cummings a cool waistcoat, the couple then cavorting in a twisted office-worker scenario.
Fiendishly gesticulating, the demonic duo also conjured George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" in this 35-minute opus, in which shoe-licking and whiplash-like head-circling added to the surreal satire, as did Jonathan Stearns' video projections of butterflies, dollars and cubes.
Kristina Wong's 20-minute tragicomic monologue, "Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," recounted the performer's tale of abuse as she struggled, without health insurance, to find a psychotherapist. Directed by Leilani Chan, the histrionic work-in-progress was neither funny nor engaging, but the uncredited video imagery of couches had a scintilla of fascination.
Still, one looks forward to the festival's performances, a kaleidoscopic view of arty Los Angeles.
Where: REDCAT at Walt Disney Concert Hall, 631 W. 2nd St., L.A.
When: 8:30 p.m. today; Also, 8:30 p.m. July 27-29, with Mira Kingsley, Marisa Carnesky and Victoria Marks, and 8:30 p.m. Aug. 3-5, with John Fleck, Juli Crockett and Matt Wardell
Price: $14 to $18. All three programs, $36
Contact: (213) 237-2800