Jowl Movements I-IX

The Oregonian, November 6, 1998

By Richard Wattenberg

Shaping a performance art piece into something approaching a theoretical disquisition of the nature of cultural modernism, Liminal presents “Jowl Movements I-IX” - a theatrical piece that is earnestr and thought-provoking if not readily accessible to audience members expecting a conventional night in the theater.

The performance, which takes place in the underground parking garage of the Portland Building, begins as a posh birthday party for author and intellectual Clyde Buxworthy (played by Jeff Marchant). The appearance of assumed elegance within the gloomy concrete urban underworld sets the tone for the evening’s exploration of the contradictions between cultural pretense and social reality, between the aspirations that tantalize and the frustrations that bog down 20th-century post-industrial humankind.

As an experimental performance piece, this work does without a standard plot; nevertheless, Bryan Markovitz, who wrote, arranged and directed it, conveys his message by blending spoken text, music and movement into a carefully articulated rhythmic structure. Here the staid appearance of order yields to frenzied chaos, and seemingly stable coherence gives way to disconnected fragments.

The acting ensemble carries this difficult piece off well with only a few lapses into strained pretentiousness. Especially fascinating were the individual and groupmovement patterns developed under the supervision of Amanda Boekelheide, the production’s choreographer.

Each of the actors develops his or her owngestural and vocal idiom. At the center fo the work, Marchant and Julie Burtis (as Clyde’s sister Jill Buxworethy) maintain a suave and elegant self control. Around them gather the party guests: Rich Southwick’s slick and mysterious Stephen; Trent Moore’s bookish, bent and twisted Lionel; Amanda Boekelheide’s slashing and abrasive Stacey; Christoph Saxe’s clipped but potentially explosive Blert; and Georgia Luce’s energetic though vulnerable Lana.

John Berendzen’s sound design and music reverberate wonderfully in the garage space.