Life’s a ball

Theatre de la Jeune Lune dances its way around serious issues.

by Greg Corradini

There’s a whole lot of dancing in the Theatre de la Jeune Lune’s production “The Ballroom.”

Communist wait staff shuffle with tables. A bandy-legged line of fogies pad around with punk youths.

“The Ballroom” is not only the location of these physical moments, it is also the focal point of the Jeune Lune’s production.

Revised from an old production, “The Ballroom” prances up and down the last century, mincing historical and philosophical moments into poetic vignettes. At the center there is the ballroom, a place where American scenes have seeped into the walls.

While some scenes are innocently fun, many of them display a political tone that resonates strongly in today’s climate.

A military man dances out the terrain of reconciliation with his male lover before being shipped off to war. Women left behind during World War II take on masculine roles in labor and industry.

Because the scenes resist a standard narrative form, their excitement and force is executed through image association, strong physical choreography and music.

A very compelling scene occurs in a 1950s’ banquet hall during the anti-communist witch hunts.

Staged in dreary black and white, a couple of head waiters discover that their co-workers are circulating communist propaganda. Chairs are slammed and white linen is bunched-up and tossed in the air. As House hearings of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Un-American Activities Committee play over the radio, not a word is spoken between the characters. But their fear is palpable.

Some fancy table shuffling ensues and two authorities in three-piece suits walk in to the operatic sound of Justin Madel belting the lines of Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni.”

In contrast to these well-structured allegories, there are farcical scenes of provincial catastrophe.

The opening vignette places viewers at a Midwestern wedding reception.

Director Dominique Serrand allows the stage to be jam-packed with more than 20 characters.

There’s the annoying boy who plays with his zipper and smears lipstick on his face. The groom’s family just stepped out of their trailer with buckteeth and cowboy boots. And the bride’s mother seems to have quite a crush on her new son-in-law.

Although the stage is packed, there’s enough rich characterization for a viewer to sit back and take in a few of the characters’ nuances to enjoy the havoc unfolding before them.

Pitted against the political, “The Ballroom” provides a kaleidoscope of mood and movement in place of the stable pleasures of narrative.