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Theater review: Slumber slashes its way through Bushwick’s sexy House of Yes

Written by
Jenna Scherer

Bushwick party kids are on the menu in Slumber, Hideaway's dance-circus slaughterfest that's cutting a bloody swath through House of Yes. How bloody? Well, not quite ponchos-for-the-front-row levels, but there is a red stain splattered across my notepad.

Featuring choreography from husband-and-wife team Keone and Mari Madrid (who choreographed and starred in Justin Bieber's funky "Love Yourself" music video) and some truly impressive circus moves, Slumber is a notch well above your average Halloween gore-athons. The plot (such as it is) follows a band of twentyish women—and one man—through a night on the town that rapidly devolves from selfie-taking to serial murder.

Directors Josh Avenir and Lyndsay Magid make maximal use of House of Yes's bristling, busy environs, as performers climb across wall art, dangle from the high ceiling and twerk on high balconies. The effect is electrifying for its proximity: It's one thing to see acrobats performing aerial silks onstage. But it's even more thrilling when it's happening almost directly over your head.

Though the performers have the kind of polish you'd find at Cirque du Soleil, there's a sharper edge to the proceedings. This is cirque nouveau that feels contemporary, sexy and a little bit dangerous. Maybe it's the way that the Madrids' choreography —a kinetic blend of hip-hop and modern dance—seamlessly blends into feats of contortion and trapeze, backed by thumping electro-pop from artists like Halsey, the Chainsmokers and Terror Jr. A Chinese pole routine becomes a vivid illustration of sexual intimidation; a cocaine high is expressed through a sinuous double trapeze performance.

The circus and dance elements are so magnetic that they throw Slumber's shortcomings into sharp relief. There's a lot of gabbing to the audience on the part of the show's head slasher (Lee Hubilla), but her text is clumsy and feels superfluous; everything she discusses at length with the audience is illustrated first and better through movement. The show’s murders (and there are a lot of them) are sloppily staged and lack the punch and specificity of the rest of the choreography. It's a letdown to watch a beautiful chase scene rounded out by a lame kill. Still, it's worth sitting through clunkier elements for the sake of amazing acrobatics and dance—both elegant and alluringly raw (never mind the blood stains).

House of Yes (Off-Off Broadway). By Josh Avenir. Directed by Avenir and Lyndsay Magid. Choreographed by Keone and Mari Madrid. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 20 mins. One intermission. Through Nov 6. Click here for tickets.

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