One Night Only (running as long as we can)
Monica Bill Barnes and Company
September 14, 2017
I first saw Monica Bill Barnes performing Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio show and was charmed. Besides their obvious physical skills, Barnes and her sidekick, Anna Bass, were full of humor with an underlying sweetness pleasantly at odds with their somewhat tough physiques and staccato moves. Then I participated in The Museum Workout, following Barnes and Bass through galleries, up and down stairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a group of us running and stopping to pump arms along the way which was an entertaining experience if not my ideal approach to enjoying art.
These previous encounters made me wish I really delighted in their latest offering, One Night Only (running as long as we can) but I couldn’t as I found it forced and flat. The choreography, partly built around the hype of a boxing match, was repetitive and the humor on the level of a freshman high school talent show. The opening scene, in which the women mock-run on side- by- side treadmills, seemed to last forever. Then they donned feather headdresses and I thought, “Good, now the fun begins.” Wrong. The performance didn’t get more entertaining and throughout both women seemed to be trying too hard. The music is largely country-and-western with a sprinkling of opera for no particular reason; the audience comments, broadcast by Robert Saenz De Vitteri, were entirely predictable and even giving out Crackerjacks and “honoring” a hero of the evening fell flat although some audience members seemed to find the whole thing a hoot.
You can’t help but admire the physicality of the women although the number in which they danced in a backwards circle while an audience member read a litany of the injuries each has sustained over the years seemed mostly a painful—in every sense of the word—time-filler. We know dance takes a toll on the body but why listen to each excruciating detail? The performance relied too heavily on paper—floating down, torn up, in strips, as banners and too much shtick. Both Barnes and Bass are fine dancers, lithe and energetic with excellent control but watching them spin one hundred times—not once but twice– is twice too many times for me.
One Night Only was performed at the interesting WP Theater, the nation’s oldest and largest theater dedicated to developing, producing and promoting the work of female-identified and trans theater artists at every stage in their careers. For WP a round of applause. For Barnes, Bass and De Vitteri, a rubber chicken. Better luck next time.