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Guessing game; Plenty to ponder in ALT Theatre's bleak 'Overtaken'

The ALT Theatre at the Warehouse, Amy and Lou Taravella's still-fledgling artistic company, calls a long, rectangular and high-ceilinged room on the third floor of the Great Arrow complex home.

It has had creative success in its first seasons: edgy, dark plays; a couple of offbeat musicals; a distaff David Mamet blaster and more. Dance mistress Taravella has found an outlet for her first love. Risk-taking is center stage.

The company has an interdisciplinary adjunct, the New ALT Performance Group, and periodically, under that aegis, a night of drama, dance, visual arts, the spoken word and music presents itself. The agenda can be a wild mix: creative juices flow here. It's a given, and this has been the case from the company's earliest days, that "artists must be permitted complete freedom to create, refine and discover his/her true voice."

So it is with the latest Performance Group package, "Understanding the Overtaken," an introspective, often bleak program assembled and led by David Butler. Snippets of verse, an odd 35-year-old playlet and two lengthy dance creations by the always aerobic Amy Taravella -- one very personal, the other part frolic, part frenzy -- are gathered together in no particular order, pursuing Butler's opening-minutes query, "What if everything you believed was made wrong by something you saw coming all along?"

And so there is puzzlement -- not a bad thing. Butler's questions are still mostly unanswered at evening's end, but there is plenty to wonder about, guess at and theorize.

The skit, a work by Anthony Swerling for the 1976 London Infringement Festival titled "The Vansittarts and The Bullworkers" -- with Alan Baumgardner and Anne Hartley Pfohl, both fine -- begins Act I. It's a tale of two well-off, elderly British retirees terrorized by unseen revolutionary home invaders. These minutes can get tedious.

"Novel Traces," danced by Aaron Water and the marvelously lithe waif, Nancy Hughes, tells a highly physical tale of communication, or lack of it, a young couple's affections and repulsions alternating -- "cyclical," describes choreographer Taravella -- as bodies are discovered and coveted.

David Kane has written original music; his work follows Oscar Wilde's premise that our lives create our songs. "Traces" can stand alone.

The night continues with "Sweet Drip," long but probably necessarily so, a dance beginning in space as Taravella rolls and writhes and recalls her mother's terminal illness and pain-wracked last days only occasionally soothed by morphine -- the "sweet drip" of the piece's title.

Seth Tyler Black's media flashes of dreams and visions and platelets adding to Taravella's very personal, sad ode. Very moving. Kane's music is again vital.

Butler's poetry -- birds, trees central -- and Poe-like hallucinations in the brief "The Bug" ends the night. ALT and Butler again have allowed "true voices" to be heard.

John Shotwell, Patrick Sears and Jason Hall provide invaluable technical work, media designer Black also performs and Ashley Vita Verde completes the ensemble.

***

"Understanding the Overtaken"    

3 stars (out of 4)

WHEN: Through May 6    

WHERE: Presented by the New ALT Performance Group at the ALT Theatre at the Warehouse    

INFO: 868-6847, www.alttheatre.com