In addition to his success as a writer, Mark Twain was also a masterful--if eccentric--public speaker. He would stand on stage saying nothing, sometimes for up to 15 minutes. The audience, growing uncomfortable, would begin to murmur and giggle, and when Twain sensed the tension in the room had reached a certain pitch, he would break it by saying something witty.
Trey McIntyre seemed to follow a similar story-telling structure Oct. 26 for the Trey McIntyre Project Fall Show at the Morrison Center, in which the spare, methodical Pass, Away, preceded Mercury Half-Life, an epic Bacchanalian homage to the legendary showmanship of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. The dream-like Pass, Away was the evening's long pause; Mercury Half-Life was the ecstasy of release.
The evening began as polite conversation dimmed with the lights. Strauss' Caecilie, Op. 27 tiptoed over the audience as Benjamin Behrends, Chanel DaSilva, Brett Perry, Rachel Sherak, Travis Walker and Ashley Werhun took the stage in male-female pairs, illustrating through ballet themes of conflict, solitude and reconciliation.
Pass, Away is a meditative, quiet piece of choreography: Coupled dancers successively took the stage, acting out gendered relationships marked by unreciprocated desire, yearning and triumph. Of particular note was a forceful performance by DaSilva, whose muscular frame and triumphant movements bubbled on the dance's surface.
Those accustomed to McIntyre's playfulness with props, costumes and vivid themes may have found Pass, Away abstract, technical, dreamy--during the intermission, one audience member confessed to "nodding off a few times"--but others may have felt a tension-building pause foreshadowing an abrupt change in the evening's tone. Nobody went home disappointed.
Where Pass, Away invited the audience to glimpse into the human interior, Mercury Half-Life exploded outward. The sometimes pianissimo, sometimes full-throated vaudevillian voice of Freddie Mercury cracked open the evening's second act as Brett Perry tap-danced to "Bring Back That Leroy Brown." Performing in white undergarments and white military-esque jackets lined in blood red, the entire company danced solos, duets, trios and ensemble pieces to selections from "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Another One Bites the Dust," "Killer Queen" and what felt like the rest of Queen's discography. Mercury Half-Life was nearly an hour of visceral, larger-than-life choreography that, at times, seemed as acrobatic as Cirque du Soleil, while columns of LEDs at the back of the stage recalled electric fantasies and images of concert-goers waving Zippos and Bics above their heads. Mercury Half-Life is the sweet spot where art and athleticism meet rock 'n' roll.