Total Eclipse of the Heart Review; Circo Zero at Theater Artaud

By Michael Wade Simpson

November 1, 2007, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

From the moment the cast of five stomps onto the stage in fuzzy, Where the Wild Things Are overcoats, until the last, sliding body descends from its rope, Sol Niger, a whirlwind of stimulation, is much more than blackness.

Blackness may be the result of scribbling on the brain, the accumulation of images and input that add up to a full picture, no room for white, nothing left to breathe. In the darkness are things that rush out at you—burlesque, beauty, acrobats, love, politics, ideas, dancing, music. A solar eclipse colors the ether a yellowish green, supposedly. Circo Zero does the same to your psyche.

”In the darkness are things that rush out at you—burlesque, beauty, acrobats, love, politics, ideas, dancing, music.”

Sol Niger is the hyper-active imagination of Keith Hennessy on display. It’s a big, emotional stew-pot-in-motion. His anxiousness, his gay soul, his ex-lover, his fear, his politics, his collaborators, his vanity. At its center is the five minute diatribe Hennessy recites, poetry jam-style, his punning, lyrical cry-out, his auto-centric bio-diatribe. If it weren’t for all the music, beauty and magic around him, Hennessy’s speech might just slap you around, rub your edges, touch intended nerves. But it’s not like that. There are people floating in the air, a clown dressed as a Nana, a pianist deconstructing accompaniment. The shouted language is like an echo in a canyon, with meaning partially lost to the wonder of all that sound, all those ideas, bouncing across the way and back.

Hennessy runs a risk being so often at fever-pitch. Still, the man thinks and reads and makes things happen. He has a body that knows. He understands theatre and stagecraft and chooses collaborators wisely.

Circo Zero is faux-rag-tag, only loose-shod on the surface. Actual, calculated brilliance is at work here. This is a group of artists happening right now. Happening.

Sol Niger: Seth Eisen, Sean Feit, Emily Leap, Brett Womack, Keith Hennessy. Original Music: Sean Feit. Light Design: Max, Costume Design BJ Bandy. September 20-29, at Theater Artaud.

Michael Wade Simpson is editor of and has written for the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications. He holds an MFA in dance from Smith College, founded “Small City Dance Project” in Massachusetts, and was an NEA Fellow at the Dance Critics Institute, American Dance Festival, in 2004.