Attack Theatre returns to the scene of the crime in ‘The Chalk Line’


Attack Theatre's Ashley Williams and Simon Thomas-Train. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Attack Theatre’s Ashley Williams and Simon Thomas-Train. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Apparently it wasn’t case closed for Attack Theatre choreographers and artistic directors Peter Kope and Michele De La Reza after their 2011 crime-drama-inspired What?…This is What. Their latest production, The Chalk Line, re-envisions that 2011 dance-theater work.

In the Nov. 2 performance, dancer Dane Toney opened the show by running onto the stage to a back wall, where he wrote in chalk, “Season 2 … Finale.” Like its predecessor, The Chalk Line‘s premise is that we are watching episodes from a recorded collection of a TV crime series, with Toney’s character the one controlling the DVR. More than just viewer, Toney’s character was also a participant in the action, interjecting himself into what he was watching or perhaps recalling his own real-life drama.

Performed to an eclectic soundtrack and live harmonica by Stu Braun, The Chalk Line’s story-within-a-story began at its end, with a dead body (Liz Chang) outlined in chalk lying on the ground. From there the 90-minute whodunit worked backward. Toney’s character provided chalk drawings of background images such as bridges, buildings, furniture and even a shower stall that he and the other characters interacted with. He also drew “play,” “fast forward” and “stop” buttons that allowed him to control the flow of the storyline.

Attack Theatre's Michele de la Reza and Dane Toney. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Attack Theatre’s Michele de la Reza and Dane Toney. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Rather than focusing on the classic whodunit trajectory, The Chalk Line delved more into the relationships between the victim and those involved with her. We were witness to a cheating boyfriend or spouse (Brent Luebbert) whose guilt over his infidelity caused him to commit suicide. We were privy to the note he leaves for Chang’s character to meet him under the bridge he hangs himself from, and his apologetic last word to her, revealed through a cryptic game of hangman. There were also a host of other clues played out through the creative uses of Toney’s chalk drawings, the performance space and several wonderfully inspired dance sections.

A more refined and emotionally complex production than the original, The Chalk Line blended humor with moments of poignancy. Attack’s performers, their dancing, and the characters they portrayed were fabulous, and the entire production a treat.

Attack Theatre's Michele de la Reza and Dane Toney. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Attack Theatre’s Michele de la Reza and Dane Toney. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Attack Theatre performs The Chalk Line, 8 p.m. Nov. 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15 & 16 at Attack’s Spring Way Studio, 2515 Liberty Ave., Strip District. $15-20. (888) 718-4253 or attacktheatre.com/chalkline.

This review first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper, November 6, 2013. Copyright Steve Sucato.
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