By Steve Sucato
Romantic relationships are fragile creatures. Fantasy, and expectation of what is desired of them, can cloud partners’ thinking, or simply unravel in the light of reality. That’s the premise of dancer/choreographer Luke Murphy’s Drenched.
The 60-minute multimedia work is coming off a successful run this past September as part of Ireland’s Absolut Fringe Festival. Drenched makes its U.S. premiere at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater on Nov. 16 and 17, as part of the theater’s KSTmoves series.
Drenched consists of a series of 10 often-humorous vignettes that Murphy describes as “little windows” into common activities of romantic relationships, from the casual to the obsessive. The work — a work-in-progress version of which was performed at the theater in July — explores how such activities can be alternately absurd, upsetting, unrealistic or realistic in their ordinariness.
Murphy, a 2009 Point Park University graduate, credits his dance training there with preparing him for the work he is doing now, especially with regard to dance-partnering. Drenched relies heavily on partnering, as Murphy and dancer Carlye Eckert are the only performers. Murphy describes his athletic choreography as “risky” in the mold of British physical theater troupes like DV8.
Murphy says he noticed Eckert, a graduate of Juilliard, in several productions in New York, where he is based. He was impressed.
“She was striking and theatrical in those performances,” says Murphy via telephone from New York. “She is a versatile and brave dancer.”
Murphy says the pair began work on Drenched a year-and-a-half ago. They were joined later by video artist David Fishel, whose cultural-reference-infused video backdrop for the work acts as both a contextual layer and as scenery for the work.
Drenched is set to an eclectic soundtrack that includes music from Elvis Presley, Steve Reich, Sinéad O’Connor and Ben Frost as well as excerpts from standup comedy recordings. The piece also uses text, spoken word and props, including rose petals and a fair amount of water.
“I have tendency to make a bit of a mess in my works,” says Murphy. “I feel in a performance work like this, you can use whatever you want as long as you are using it efficiently to tell your story.”
A version of this article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper November 14, 2012. Copyright Steve Sucato