Attack Theatre closes season with ambitious amalgam of Rube Goldberg machines and Bach | Dance | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Attack Theatre closes season with ambitious amalgam of Rube Goldberg machines and Bach

Attack Theatre closes season with ambitious amalgam of Rube Goldberg machines and  Bach
Photo: Dr. Robert Kormos
Attack Theatre dancer Kaitlin Dann

Attack Theatre closes out its 24th season with one of its most ambitious programs to date, The Rube Goldberg Variations.

The 90-minute dance-theater performance combines Rube Goldberg machines, which achieve simple tasks through unnecessarily elaborate means, with J.S. Bach’s equally detailed composition The Goldberg Variations. In it, two neighbors (here portrayed by Mark Thompson and Carolina Loyola-Garcia) face off over their differences to create humorous situations that culminate in the building of their own Rube Goldberg machine of understanding.  

The idea of a Rube Goldberg-like machine can also be found in Bach’s music, says the show’s music director, Latin Grammy Award-nominated composer, Flavio Chamis. 

“One of the most intellectually creative pieces of music ever, I see The Goldberg Variations as a 32-piece Rube Goldberg musical contraption,” says Chamis. “There is a permanent flow of musical ideas moving forward, all tracked on a recurring bass line which is the conduit of the whole piece. Each variation carries forward from the previous one, steering at the same time to the next. The marvel of this process is the final task of this chain-reaction-journey: a return to right where we started.”

Bach’s score will be performed live by nationally-acclaimed pianist Nathan Carterette and bassist María Macarena Castellón. Also included in the program’s soundscape will be original ambient music by longtime Attack collaborators Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer, as well as an original closing composition by Chamis. 

Company member Kaitlin Dann returned after taking off time for her first child Nelson.

“It is interesting that this is the show I am coming back to because Rube Goldberg machines are so much about taking simple tasks and having overly complicated ways of getting them done. It seems like that, in and of itself, is parenthood as a dancer," says Dann. "A simple task of rehearsing a three-minute section is finding the overcomplicated steps to put the baby to sleep or making sure he is happy so momma can go and dance.”

The dancers will facilitate parts of the narrative by taking small ideas and making them bigger. Dann sees similarities between Attack’s creative process and seeing the exploded pathways of a Rube Goldberg machine. 

“We are really good at working backwards, upside down, sideways, and diagonal to get to a final goal,” says Dann. “Once you start down this rabbit hole of seeing this world through all these bits and pieces that come together and create a final grand product, suddenly everything starts to shimmer in that light.” 

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