Last Exit Before Brooklyn

Jalopy’s engaging journey before the inevitable crash

BY GUS SOLOMONS JR.

In the lobby of Dance New Amsterdam’s new home on Chambers Street near City Hall, audience members for the premiere of Alethea Adsitt’s “the new jalopy” mix with dancers headed for their evening ballet and jazz classes. An arc of chairs faces two benches, placed near the windows facing the street. Adjacent to the chairs, a table piled high with mending supplies, has a “Fit-It Expert” sign tacked to it. A woman wearing a black, tulle skirt with a big cabbage rose at the waist, sits behind the table, folding paper.

Gradually, an assortment of characters stroll in toward the benches. A long-haired diva in fishnets, red high-heels, and a fringed shawl around her hips reclines on a bench and writes in a journal. A man in exercise clothes and a bespectacled personal assistant-type woman peer out the windows. A guy in a green shirt plops down on the floor and sorts through a bunch of keys.

The fix-it lady, Lindsay Brandon Hunter, wielding a bull horn, welcomes and informs us that she’ll be our tour guide through the ensuing, peripatetic performance, which recounts the ill-fated road trip pop singer Xochi (Natasha Yannacañero) and her entourage of five take.

Co-created with Robin Kurtz, “jalopy” makes engaging side trips that introduce members of the clique. Fresh-faced groupie Charlene (Courtney Drasner) dances up and down stairs; William, the trainer (Richard Ayres) who’d rather be “Billiam,” lolls before a TV in his seedy motel room, a corner of the gallery. In a dream sequence, Ross Aseron’s atmospheric video of a rural hotel in ruins plays on one wall of a mirrored dance studio, as Jonathan Greene, the guy with keys, and Kurtz, who plays Xochi’s manager, reminisce about his lost Saab, which fell from a ramped parking lot; he still keeps the keys in a special pocket.

Then, Hunter leads us into the black-box theater, where the performers pile into seats behind us, their rented van—Xochi’s felonious ex absconded to Mexico in their bus—to continue the tour. Just as the team rejoices at hearing Xochi’s latest song at No. 1 on the car radio, fate intervenes. In the penultimate scene, the stylist (Adsitt) lives her fantasy of becoming a singing star herself. She croons, karaoke-style into a mike, with the others dancing background, all wearing plaid skirts and glasses that match hers.

Finally, a blizzard of feathers from an exploded pillow and strewn baggage cover the stage; dancers rush around, sliding in the debris. One by one the players leave, and we’re looking at the aftermath of their road accident, as a somber recorded voice reminds us, “Fortune can flip in an instant.”

Whether or not “the new jalopy” answers the question Adsitt poses—How do people and things in disrepair survive?—is moot, but the 70-minute escapade—a reworking of “Jalopy” originally presented in 2002 in Adsitt’s native Seattle—offers up a journey, literally and figuratively, that’s highly intriguing with smart acting and fine dancing by all and imaginative site-specific staging, lighting by Mandy Ringger, audio by Jeff Lorenz, and co-direction by Gwyneth Reitz.

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