Don't be thrown off by the fact that the new Suchu Dance show Mouthpiece has nothing to do with mouths or pieces or spokespeople. Like all creative endeavors, this one started off as a vague idea. It would explore how language affects us, artistic director Jennifer Wood told DiverseWorks in a grant proposal last year. But since then, the show has evolved.
"The piece has turned into a documentary, or sort of a reality show," says Wood. The choreographer's creative process, in a sense, has been exposed for public viewing. "It's the making of Mouthpiece," she says.
Gone is the idea of language; in its place are themes of happiness and disillusionment. But Wood couldn't be bothered to change the title.
Suchu Dance performs Mouthpiece
DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway
8 p.m. Thursday, February 20, through Saturday, February 22. For information, call 713-335-3445. $15.
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Mouthpiece combines dance, spoken text, field recordings from Indonesia and video projection. The show's innovative choreography, silly to bone-dry humor and skillful theatricality are typically Suchu, but its ending is not. Wood has finally broken the pattern of happy endings in Suchu shows. "I'm kind of a depressive person," she confesses, "and it's a challenge to create upbeat work, because it could be revolting if it's too happy."
With Mouthpiece, Wood has unleashed her dark side into her choreography. Describing the way her work has changed, Wood jokes, "I decided for the next show we're going to have a happy village where everything goes to hell."
In Mouthpiece, eight blank slates -- folks lacking any kind of experience or ambition --occupy Wood's happy village. The ambiguous citizens embark on a quest for happiness and sophistication but find that getting what they want leaves much to be desired. Wood's hell, it seems, is the state of being jaded.
But don't expect this version of hell to lack humor. In one of the piece's reality-TV mo-ments, characters seem to be locked in a surveillance camera-equipped house, where they are forced to deal with each other. Occasionally they mutter a complaint such as "I just can't stand the way he pees on the floor."