Duo Multicultural Arts Center
New York City
Keely Garfield chose the right venue for her performance of Twin Pines. The Duo Multicultural Arts Center in New York’s East Village is an old five-story building with performance spaces on different floors and a beautiful tiny proscenium theatre at the ground level. The centre presents theatre, film, music, art and, of course, dance. If you have a chance, check it out—it has the kind of patina that lends that ‘downtown’ flavour to a production.
The first half of Twin Pines began in the fourth floor studio, lit by strings of Christmas lights and flashlights, with two of the latter aimed like follow spots by attentive assistants. The work succeeds best in this section, where we’re introduced to several characters—the mystery of their identities is intriguing and we snatch up every clue to learn more about who they are. An axe adds an element of dramatic tension. As the cast enters, Brandin Steffensen seats himself on a stump at centre-stage and holds the axe crosswise in front of him. His demeanour is calm, innocent, perhaps even a bit vacant, so even though he’s holding a potential weapon, there’s nothing threatening about what we see. Then, following in behind him, comes Garfield, who seats herself on the floor next to an adjacent stump, the one closest to the axe blade, and rests her head on the top of the stump. The tension created between the quiet tableau and subconscious images of beheadings is enjoyably disturbing.
Music by on-stage musician Matthew Brookshire is absolutely magical in its ability to mythologise the characters. Dancers Anthony Phillips and Omagbitse Omagbemi complete the ensemble. The final movement, performed in the theatre downstairs, was not related to the characters from the first half and didn’t feel as focused—but it did end with an unexpected singalong that provided a certain distinctiveness.