An old tow truck warehouse near the Gowanus Canal might not seem like such a likely location to take in some elegantly highbrow dance/theater, but when you think about it, abandoned industrial spaces have often provided fertile ground for avant-garde performance troupes (The Wooster Group and Radiohole are the first two that come to mind). Still, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the rococo splendor that awaits you inside the Brooklyn home of Company XIV, where their second production, Le Serpent Rouge, unfolds under a lavishly designed, pressed tin proscenium and shimmering curtain.
Zane Philstrom's set is a work of stunning beauty, matched only by the impeccably toned bodies of the core performers, who display impressive physical endurance and plenty of flesh while executing Austin McCormick vigorous, baroque choreography. The 75 minute piece is a stylized representation of the story of Adam and Eve and Lilith, who, in some accounts, preceded Eve as Adam's mate but stormed from the Garden because the first man wouldn't try anything but missionary position. From Genesis, the action melts into a dance interpretation of the seven deadly sins, as put forth by fourth century monk Evagrius Ponticus. Trapeze-swinging, gender-bending, and partial nudity abound.
Unlike other dance/theater troupes like Big Dance Theater, which typically uses dance to enliven a narrative, Company XIV's approach here is really more dance/poetry, with a buxom Ring Mistress serving as a sort of dour, whip-cracking announcer of banal aphorisms like, "Good weather is like a good woman. It doesn't always happen and when it does it doesn't always last." Hm. In the absence of any dramatic tension, the piece becomes increasingly attenuated around the one hour mark; while the writhing bodies and lavish design are always easy on the eyes, a certain repetitiveness takes hold as the ensemble proceeds to reenact purgatory. (The mood evoked—that of waiting for release—proves to be a bit too literal.) But taken as a whole, the moody Le Serpent Rouge is filled with enough striking and surprising tableaux to whet my appetite for future apples from Company XIV.