"Now what is it that keeps us together?" wonders the dour couple in Jane Weiner and David Neumann's, poignant duet, a day of It (2004), as part of Hope Stone Dance's "An Evening of Bread and Circus," at Barnevelder Movement Arts Complex. They trip through the rituals of domestic captivity like players in a deadpan dirge, re-enacting gestures of affection, some predictable, some curiously animalistic, which proves to be a compelling thread running through the dance.
Neumann, director of Advanced Beginner Group in New York, and Weiner have a long history in motion together and it shows in this delicately crafted dance.
The Mr., a once-dapper corporate drone, stumbles through his duties, while the Mrs., donning an epically dowdy house dress, scurries about the house, which just happens to appear thanks to a robotic white suited team of furniture movers. They hang their coats on an imaginary coat rack, undisturbed by the existence of gravity that lets their coats fall to the ground. A day of It plays with ideas of a post-dead marriage, a pair of sleepwalkers stuck in the parade of daily chores of living, like retrieving the mail like a pair of retrievers.
Little things excite them, offering momentary stirrings out of their somnambulistic trance. He loves forks, while she comes alive in a pre-dinner prayer. The two time Bessie-winning Neumann delivers a wonderfully nuanced performance, with such modulation of effort we almost hold out hope for him. Weiner, one of Houston's best actor/dancers, also shows us emotional shades of coming in and out of aliveness.
It may sound dreary, but it's as hilarious as it is tragic. Weiner and Neumann are experts in knowing how to pull back the reigns on the comedy, leaving the sting intact.
In the end though, they come apart. The Mr. crawls under a rug returning to a more primal state, while the Mrs. hides under the kitchen table. The cleaning crew arrives, stripping the stage/cage bare, including the white tape border, perhaps the only thing tethering them to their vacant lives.
Are they set free? Or maybe, there just won't be another day of it.