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Review: The Fourth Circle 

Tyler Gillespie on DaDa Productions’ improv collaboration between a singer, a musician, a dancer and a visual artist

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Photo by Billy Louviere

With most shows, the audience only sees the final product. The Fourth Circle, presented recently by Dane Rhodes and DaDa Productions at Mid-City Theatre, not only tries to expose the creative process, it demands spontaneous improvisation from its artists. We see the brains at work behind the beauty.

  Four performers — a singer, musician, dancer and visual artist — share the stage and collaborate on the creation of original works, both performance and on canvas. Their inspiration comes from a short film, which they and the audience view at the beginning of the performance. At the Aug. 15 Fourth Circle, Shanna Forrestall screened Fettuccine ... A Love Affair, a three-minute, black-and-white silent movie. Fettuccine features a woman who has a saucy interest in noodles, and it combines food, humor and sex.

  Accompanied on piano by Harry Mayronne, singer Dorian Rush improvised song lyrics, including "Food can love me," based on the opening short. Rush's bluesy voice set the mood, and the singer/actress is perfect for this type of show, because her quick wit kept things moving. She easily went from singing about longing for food to well-timed jokes: "My mom was a chef, and I have the body to prove it."

  While Rush and Mayronne improvised a soundtrack, dancer Tara Brewer provided movement. At first I was unsure how Brewer's dancing would work with Rush and Mayronne, but she matched them with both physical and emotional energy and used the whole stage. These performers improvised well together and Rush and Brewer's back-and-forths were the strongest moments.

  I would have liked visual artist Anne Stackel to have been better integrated into the overall structure. For most of the show, Stackel worked with her back to the audience while painting a landscape inspired by Fettuccine. The audience learned a little about Stackel through a short bit at the end, but by nature, the act of painting doesn't allow much chance for the artist to connect with the other performers or audience.

  Because the event is not rehearsed, it's not surprising there were some shaky moments. I liked that element of risk. Early stages of the creative process are not about refinement; they're focused on generating ideas and themes to be explored further — or left on the cutting room floor.

  The piece lasted just under an hour, and it ended at an appropriate place. The Fourth Circle felt inspired, and it was interesting to see the participants work together to create something unique. Artistic communities thrive on collaboration and The Fourth Circle shows how artists from different disciplines can relate to one another.

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