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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Kiss & Cry at the Festival of Firsts

Posted By on Thu, Oct 3, 2013 at 10:40 AM

This remarkable production, staged at the New Hazlett Theater, is like watching a movie while you’re also watching the movie be made. But its most striking trick is that the key on-screen roles are played not by whole actors, but by human hands.

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It’s an old amusement, really, pretending your first two fingers are legs and walking them across the table. But it’s accurate to classify this U.S.-premiere show, credited to the Belgian collective known as NanoDanses, as dance: The hand actors are that beautifully expressive in depicting an elderly woman’s memories of the five great loves of her life.

Kiss & Cry, featuring poetic voiceover narration in English, is as visually lush as it is romantically bittersweet. There are underwater sequences (shot in a fishtank), desert scenes (staged with tiny figurines) and fantastical passages, like a dance in swirling fallen leaves.

The ten-member troupe, directed by Jaco Van Dormael, scurries about a mostly darkened stage. The group includes not only four dancers/hand actors, but the people who manipulate the miniature sets and backdrops and deploy the clever lighting schemes, plus the three-person camera crew that shoots it all to be projected live on a full-sized screen upstage at the New Hazlett.

There is even a model train set, with cameras both inside and outside, that provides lovely transitional sequences.

“From now on she will have eyes only for her lovesrs’ hands,” says the male voiceover at one point. “Some of them were like fruit, others like dead birds, others like climbing plants.”

The 75-minute Kiss & Cry — the title is taken from figure-skating’s name for the bench competitors sit on while awaiting their scores — is dreamlike, built from a series of fleeting moments of transcendance, and often quite sensual. And then — c’est la vie — there’s the recurring image of the big (memory) hole everything eventually disappears into.

Last night’s opener of this Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts show appeared sold-out, but as of this morning tickets remained for final two of three shows, tonight and tomorrow. Tickets are $25.

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