Chéri. Pershing Square Signature Center (see Off Broadway). Directed and choreographed by Martha Clarke. Based on the novel by Colette. With Amy Irving, Alessandra Ferri, Herman Cornejo. Running time: 1hr 5mins. No intermission.
Chéri: in brief
Director-choreographer Martha Clarke returns to the turn-of-the-20th-century territory she explored in Vienna: Lusthaus and Belle Époque with this multidisciplinary adaptation of a 1920 novel by Colette. Tina Howe wrote the text; the cast includes Amy Irving and ballet stars Herman Cornejo and Alessandra Ferri.
Chéri: theater review by David Cote
“A perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire” is how George Bernard Shaw quippily described dance’s implicit erotic nature. The distinction is quite blurry in Martha Clarke’s dance-theater reduction of Colette’s 1920 novel Chéri, in which choreographed steps melt into steamy clinches.
I wish I’d had a fraction of the fun that Chéri (Cornejo) seems to be having with his older lover, Léa (Ferri), who, we are told by the boy’s mother, Charlotte (Irving), is almost twice his age. Charlotte drifts in and out of dance sequences (accompanied on piano by Sarah Rothenberg) to dole out bits of plot: Chéri marries an age-appropriate girl; he grows apart from the now-depressed Léa; he serves in World War I; and so forth. The monologues are by Tina Howe.
It’s a schematic setup: Dance provides emotional colors and the text anchors us in narrative flow. But Clarke’s moves are too generic (lots of lifting and twirling) and Howe’s speeches too abbreviated and faux arch to involve us, even for 65 minutes. (Worse, Irving’s delivery is stilted and bland.) Everyone looks quite stylish and sexy, but this is not an affair to remember.—Theater review by David Cote
THE BOTTOM LINE A French novel doesn’t translate into dance.
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote
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