The wildly witty and inquisitive Lucky Plush Productions break their recent tradition of evening-length performances with “Tab Show.” For the last few years, Julia Rhoads’ company has applied their inimitable style of dance theater—which weaves together contemporary dance, song and personal, naturalistic dialogue between the multitalented performers—to gently unpacking ideas around, say, life-changing decisions, as in last year’s “Rooming House,” or the complexities of group identity in a brand-driven world as in “Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of SuperStrip” or what kinds of relationships form whilst standing in line, as in “The Queue.” In “Tab Show” (the title comes from excerpted, traveling “tabloid” musical theater shows of the early twentieth century), Lucky Plush presents two reimagined shorter works: “Rink Life,” an expanded riff on a short piece Rhoads created for Hubbard Street last year and loosely inspired by roller-skating culture, and “Curb Candy,” a remix of memorable moments from past Plush shows.
Rhoads enlisted vocalist Bethany Clearfield to work with the performers in “Rink Life,” exploring the deep psychological places from which the voice can emerge. “We used images in how breath works, how whispering comes out of curiosity, and that leads to conversations, and that grows to a chant,” Rhoads says. “I became curious as to how different ways of using the voice can transform. It’s a stretch for us because it’s extremely technical. I’m also okay when things don’t sound perfect because in live performance that’s where the humanity is.”
“Curb Candy” uses the two-page Samuel Beckett “dramaticule” “Come and Go,” as a springboard. The piece opens with three characters observing action from past Lucky Plush performances. “There are moments from Lucky Plush that are visually rich or from another world that would be unique to emerge and then these three people are watching,” explains Rhoads. “Excerpts emerge and go away. Ultimately my joy inside it was finding those excerpts from past works that could accumulate and the frame could keep changing according to who’s watching who. There’s a lot of playfulness; it’s in the classic Lucky Plush languages.”
After the Harris engagement, Lucky Plush hits the road to D.C. for their first performance at the Kennedy Center, another feather in the cap of the only dance company to receive the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. The accolades are well-earned; Plush shows never fail to please. (Sharon Hoyer)
At the Harris Theater, 205 East Randolph, (312)334-7777. Thursday and Friday, April 26 and 27 at 7:30pm. $25-$70. Tickets at www.harristheaterchicago.org.