A poetic excavation of the juvenile justice system directed by Keith Hennessy. Co-created with performers Constance Castillo, Jeremie Chetrit, Dawon Davis, Trae Greer, Meghan Milam, Tracy Piper, Nestor Reyes, Jorge Rodolfo De Hoyos, Omar Turcios.
Keith Hennessy’s Delinquent
Rachel Howard, SF Chronicle
November 15, 2008
Near the beginning of Keith Hennessy's new one-hour show, "Delinquent," Lick Wilmerding High School senior Constance Castillo sits high in a sling hoisted by her fellow cast members. "Two of us have been locked up on both sides of the bay," she says, steely-eyed. "Three know someone killed in the last month. Five have parents who have been incarcerated. Some have parents in prison right now. All have stolen."
All are honest, compelling performers, and choreographer Hennessy - a veteran performance artist and activist best known for his anti-fear-mongering AIDS rituals - mostly does right by their diverse talents.
"Delinquent" is strongest whenever Hennessy lets these teens and no-longer-quite-teens do their thing. Trae Greer unleashes his lush balletic dancing, Dawon Davis shows off his fierce hip-hop free-styling, Nestor Reyes dispatches a biting spoken-word solo about being a misogynist 16-year-old Casanova. Hennessy, the founder of political cirque nouveau troupe Circo Zero, also draws on his cast's big-top skills. After describing her former high school's weekly moment of silence for victims of violence, a commanding Tracy Piper does a fantastic contortionist act dressed like a skeleton. Jeremie Chetrit twirls through a death-defying rope climb, wrapping the coil around his neck like a noose.
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In And Out of the System
Rita Felciano, danceviewtimes.com
November 15, 2008
In more religious times, truth telling was left to prophets. Today it’s in the hand of artists, in this case nine of them between the age of 16 and 24. “Delinquent” is full of truths that we don’t to want to know about. What’s the percentage of African-Americans in jail relative to the rest of the population? The number of Americans incarcerated in comparison to other countries’ imprisonment rates? We all know—or suspect--the answers to these and some other two dozen troubling questions. They were printed on prison-color orange cards and passed around the audience before the show. What to do with that knowledge hangs over the hour-long work like a murky challenge. It would have been good to see some of those issues more clearly reiterated on stage.
Hennessey, who started his Bay Area career with the legendary Contraband, thinks deeply about the wounds in our society but he doesn’t go for band-aid approaches. He is also a man of the stage and often succeeds in distilling burning issues into captivating theater that shoots for the core but doesn’t hit you over the head. For the impressionistic “Delinquent” he chose to work with young performers. Together they created a work that is rough-hewn but buoyant in its blunt humanity. Cleary these gifted young people, whatever, their backgrounds, are no losers. The piece, however, could have used more stringent dramaturgy.
The setup is simple. The audience is seated in an L-formation around an open performance space. Along the sides of the stage, two black and white arrows point to the stark options young people have. It is either “Inmate” or “Classmate”. On top of the ceiling’s lighting grill squirms a spread-eagled male performer. He looks like a fly on a squatter.
The cabaret-like “Delinquent” spins through a series of vignettes tied together by a musical collage (by Matt Jones) and choral chanting from “Westside Story’s” ‘Officer Krupke.’ Performed in a circle, these rhythmic incantations seem to act as a bonding ritual before the performers split apart into individual presentations. Suspended in a cocoon-like trapeze, spoken word poet diminutive Constance Castillo starts by reciting a long litany of vital facts. “Half of us have B.A., half us have parents who are divorced, all of us have stolen and were never caught.” Later on Meghan Milam’s poem on the inequalities of life on 24th Street—a neighborhood of the very poor and the very wealthy—ends in a collective howl in mourning people recently lost due to violence. Tracy Piper, an impressive circus performer, folds herself--on trapeze, in a suspended aerial cage and in a Death costume—in so many ways that the body’s natural state disappears like the mental convolutions survival necessitate.
“Delinquent” deals with pervading fear as something that is about to crush you—a wall that tilts precariously, another that falls repeatedly with the dancer underneath barely escaping by split-second timing rolls. Dawon Davis describes his experience in jail as something to make you keep your eyes closed except that “when you open them it’s much harder.” Davis literally gets locked up as the other artists encase him in a box.
Davis is a lanky but highly energized Hip Hop dancer whose style sets up an intriguing contrast with the multi-lingual vocabulary of the show’s other African American dancer, Trae Greer. Greer seems to be all about creating space while Davis focus in what happens inside space.
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