DREAM ANALYSIS, a dance musical

* Written by Dr. Ronald Vereen and Mark Dendy * Directed by Kevin Malony and Mark Dendy * Starring Mark Dendy, David Drake, lawrence Keigwin, Richard Move, Bobby Peace, and Antonio Ramos

What a queer year it’s been for Off-Broadway theater! Outside the Broadway belt, where *Cabaret* and *The Lion King* rule, the biggest hits have been a whole bunch of wacky, one-of-a-kind theater experiences -- from John Cameron Mitchell’s drag-show/rock- concert *Hedwig and the Angry Inch* to *Shakespeare’s R&J* performed by four schoolboys to Basil Twist’s *Symphonie Fantastique,* a puppet-show performed in a 500-gallon tank of water. Now add to the list *Dream Analysis*, a theater piece by dancer and choreographer Mark Dendy whose sold-out four-week run at Dance Theater Workshop ended September 17, though an open-ended commercial engagement is in the works.

The play opens with Martha Graham, high priestess of modern dance, at her makeup table. Dendy has been perfecting his hilarious and loving Graham impersonation for years at club gigs and awards shows -- the severe simian face, the thunderous eyes, the cool strangled voice -- only now he is joined by a second Graham, the Priestess’ Reflection (Richard Move). These turn out to be figures from a dream related by Dendy’s fictional alter-ego, Eric Henley (David Drake, of *The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me* fame), to his female shrink (Bobby Pearce in sensible pink-wool drag with pointy glasses). The dream reminds Eric that, growing up as a southern gay boy with his holy-roller mother, he got artistic encouragement from his Aunt Winifred, who started the local Judy Garland Fan Club and incidentally looked a lot like the shrink. Eric recalls moving to New York at 18 to study with Martha Graham -- the two priestesses reappear, in matching gold caftans, topknots, and trademark grimaces -- at which point he discovered inside himself the spirit of Nijinsky (Lawrence Keigwin).

The plot proceeds, but remember we’re in dream territory. One Nijinsky becomes two, Aunt Winifred morphs into Dorothy from *The Wizard of Oz*, Eric pulls on fishnets and a fedora and a tux jacket to become Judy singing “Get Happy,” the shrink sings a number about Prozac to the tune of “The Trolley Song,” and Judy joins Martha for a dance with three Nijinskys wearing black trunks and silver lame phalli. Through all this craziness and clowning, Eric and his shrink explore his shame, guilt, internalized homophobia, and fear of going insane. Dendy delivers straight a monologue drawn from Nijinsky’s mad diaries, and as Graham he expressively whirls his way through a famous credo of hers that speaks to the heart of any artist’s creative journey. And the whole thing ends with a silly, gorgeous, and ultimately ecstatic duet by Dendy and Keigwin as two Nijinsky fauns.

The amazing thing about *Dream Analysis* is that it operates simultaneously on four separate and ever-distinct levels. It’s a dance piece with eruptions of pure choreography at the same time that it’s a play with developed characters. It’s a wildly entertaining and theatrically unconventional clown-show, and it’s also a deeply personal essay from the soul of a young gay artist that never lapses into mawkish confessionalism. Dendy’s achievement as creator and performer is nothing short of tour-de-force, yet his colleagues are no slouches. Move and Pearce play real characters, not drag caricatures, and besides being an extraordinary dancer Keigwin has the most liquid, seductive eyes since Theda Bara. Liz Prince’s costumes are a hoot, too. Still, for all its wild campiness and its fractured form, *Dream Analysis* makes a real case for the proposition that art heals.

The Advocate, October 27, 1998

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