Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler gets a taste of 21st century Rococo from the innovative performance troupe Company XIV.
Something naughty is happening on Lafayette Street these days. It began with Bridget Everett’s tits-to-the-wall performance in Rock Bottom, which opened at The Public Theatre last week. If you meander across the street to Colonnade Row, you’ll stumble across one of New York City’s great architectural gems—a series of Greek revival buildings erected in the early 19th century. And if you delve a bit deeper, you will discover Company XIV’s latest theatrical confection, Rococo Rouge. Conceived, choreographed and directed by Artistic Director Austin McCormick, Rococo Rouge is the latest installment from this “classically trained ban of theatrical libertines,” that last year brought us Nutcracker Rouge.
Named after the flamboyant and virile Louis XIV (who was also known as being a great patron of the arts), Company XIV’s eclectic band of performers pulls out all of the stops, incorporating aerial acts, live vocals and contemporary dance—all set against a fantastical backdrop created by Zane Pihlstrom (costume and set design), Jeanette Yew (lighting design) and Austin McCormick (sound design). For the most part, they succeed in creating a voluptuous and dynamic world that explores the themes of love and obsession.
Shelly Watson returns as the evening’s host, bringing her unique brand of chanteuse charisma to the evening. While she’s got pipes that could bring Louis XIV back from the grave, the improvised portions of the evening and her interaction with the audience falls flat and one wishes that she might crash Everett’s show across the street for a bit of “Down and Dirty 101.” That being said, she’s got a sparkle in her eye and delivers a funky high-art rendition of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” rap.
Other pop culture and classical references are woven throughout the evening, including a haunting rendition of “Youth” (delivered with vacant seduction by Katrina Cunningham with Rob Mastrianni on guitar) and Edith Piaf’s recording of “Le Bel Indifférent.” These juxtapositions create a nonlinear fabric from which McCormick and his artists weave a complex exploration of timeless themes centered on the heart.
The committed ensemble tackles McCormick’s muscular choreography with abandon—contorting, thrusting, pole dancing and dangling from the ceiling as if it was their last night on earth. The evening loses steam, through no fault of the performers, due to two unnecessary intermissions that truncate the evening’s emotional force. While the beverage menu says, “There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne,” (credited to Bette Davis), Company XIV is bubbling all on its own.
Rococo Rouge Presented by Company XIV
Colonnade Row, 428 Lafayette Street
Through November 2