"A is for Amy who fell down the stairs," begins author-illustrator Edward Gorey's macabre The Gashleycrumb Tinies. "A" is also for Attack Theatre, which is preparing to take Gorey's twisted, gothic alphabet of dead children and turn it into a bit of dark Halloween fun. "Dead End" is the first half of Attack's season-opening program [Insert Clever and Thought Provoking Title Here] at the New Hazlett Theater.
"One of the nice things about using Gorey's book as a basis for the work is that it gave us parameters and a structure, and for the work which we like," said Attack co-artistic director Michele de la Reza. "We also like that then we can take those rules and break them."
Set to original music by composer Douglas Levine, to be played live by a trio of area performers, "Dead End" is a mostly non-literal interpretation of the late Gorey's morbidly clever alphabet, first published in 1981.
"Once we gave ourselves permission to not be literal with our interpretations of Gorey's text, it opened up a whole realm of possibilities," says de la Reza. One example is a scene for the letter "E," where Ernest chokes on a peach. De la Reza and husband and co-artistic director Peter Kope invented a wild, six-and-a-half minute segment using a half-dozen dancers and a large rolling bed to impart a vastly different interpretation of Gorey's words suggesting someone dying from the consumption of fruit.
"Dead End" uses video projections and a number of props to help its six performers interpret and transition between the work's 26 scenes. While some scenes are several minutes long, others last only seconds, says de la Reza. The work features Attack's signature style of athletic modern dance movement in interpreting each of the scenes, blending humor and seriousness.
The work also includes: a floating body; a performer in a bear costume; an alternative version of a circus knife-throwing act, set to polka music; and an ax-murdering puppet show.
Meanwhile, "U" is for "Untitled 2008," the second part of Attack's program that will unfold like a dance version of television's Whose Line Is It Anyway? The election-year-themed game show/dance contest sets two competing dance teams on a partitioned stage to vie for audience votes. The dancers will improvise choreography from a list of topics, emotions and other suggestions submitted by the audience. Moderated by actor Patrick Jordan, with music from DJ Soy Sos (a.k.a. Herman Pearl), the work, says Kope, "will be very risky".
And "C" is for contest. The final element in the 90-minute [Insert Clever and Thought Provoking Title Here] asks audience members to see www.attacktheatre.com in advance to suggest show titles. (Mine is "Whose Dance Is It Anyway?") One lucky person's suggestion will be chosen to re-title the show.
Attack Theatre presents [Insert Clever and Thought Provoking Title Here] 8 p.m. nightly Fri., Oct. 31; Sat., Nov. 1; and Mon., Nov. 3. New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square, North Side. $20 ($25 at the door; $15 student/seniors; $40 opening-night ticket includes pre-show reception). 412-394-3353 or www.proartstickets.org