Director: Austin McCormick
Choreographer: Austin McCormick
Reviewer: Tim Koch
You don’t always have to learn Greek mythology in the classroom. And it doesn’t have to be boring. In Brooklyn, a new kind of classical lesson is taking place.
As one steps into the Irondale Center in Fort Greene, it is immediately evident that Company XIV’s PARIS is different. A drink menu is given out instead of a playbill. A rich setting by Zane Pihlstrom transports you from Brooklyn, into a French nightclub that has likely seen better days and yet is more enticing because of it.
Performers move comfortably around the space, flirting with the audience as they prepare for the show, usually by removing clothes instead of putting them on.
The intimate venue offers a mix of chairs at tables and couches for two or three, split between a floor level and a balcony on three sides, as well as (naturally) a bar.
Company XIV describes its style as “Baroque Burlesque,” which is stylistically evident from the beginning. Performers are often seen changing in the background, adding to the sensual overtones of the production.
After a quick can-can, we meet our host, Zeus, and his literal other half, Fifi, played by Charlotte Bydwell, in a split-personality role that is conceptually interesting and often entertaining, but does not always play out in an easy-to-understand way. Zeus begins to tell the classical myth of the Judgement of Paris, and the audience is soon introduced to our hero, though this is no ordinary retelling.
The first of three acts begins slowly, and serves to introduce us to our key players. Paris (Jakob Karr), a shepherd, is initially costumed as a French aristocrat, although everyone in this production wears significantly less clothing than any historical counterpart. Karr’s Paris spends most of the time onstage, as he must judge which goddess is the most beautiful, and will receive the golden apple. When dancing, Karr is kinetic, but his Paris spends an equal amount of time being unsure and uncomfortable with what is happening to him.
The show really picks up in the second act as we meet the goddesses, Athena, Juno, and Venus. The caliber of these performers elevates the show, and Marcy Richardson’s Athena is particularly impressive as she delivers an incredibly memorable performance that combines jazz, opera, and pole dancing. Randall Scotting’s countertenor performance as Juno is equally memorable, and Storm Marrero delivers powerhouse vocals as Athena.
While the show does find its stride, the use of prerecorded music, especially in the first act, makes it feel like a vital element of the show is not fully realized. Yes, there is (quite good) singing and excellent dance, but rarely is an instrument played on stage and it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Overall, PARIS is a highly entertaining, sensual production with its fair share of surprises, wow moments, and mesmerizing visuals that ensure everyone has a great time.
Runs until 12 November