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A&E: Welcome lace fans

May 26, 2008

Hear the word "lace" and you'd be justified in thinking of such terms as "delicate," "elegant" or, if you were in a whimsical mood, even "doily-esque." Hear "knitting" and you are likely to imagine a grandmotherly woman working on a shawl.

That assumes, of course, that you haven't already been to the Indiana State Museum to see the new exhibit "Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting."

Hear those words after visiting and you're likely to have other ideas.

The exhibition, organized by the Museum of Arts & Design in Manhattan, features a wide range of alter-yourpreconceptions work. These range from miniatures created with medical needles to a video showing the making of a massive American Flag using construction equipment and poles to do the knitting. (Both would have been more interesting to see in process.)

The exhibition is filled with interesting, intricate work. Hildur Bjarnadottir's skull-circumscribed piece is an attention getter, but the artist's charming "Doodling" is just as strong. Hilal Sami Hilal's layered hanging movingly evokes the printed page, while also commenting on depth and repetition. And Henk Wolvers' wall-spanning "Line II" makes mesmerizing use of both its materials and its shadows.

If there's a downside, it's that a number of the pieces are hurt by context. Cal Lane's "Filigree Car Bombing," created from auto parts cut with an oxyacetylene torch, is positioned by a window overlooking IUPUI. The exterior brightness drains away some of the power of the piece. Seeing other work through the slits of the hanging "Lace Meander" by Piper Shepard weakens the work. And I'm also not certain of the wisdom of greeting visitors with Freddie Robins' "Craft Kills" and "It Sucks." It's confrontational, yes, but not really representative of the subtle creativity of most of the works in this worthwhile exhibition.

A clever overture is the highpoint of "Five Course Love," currently on the menu at Theatre on the Square. While trying for naughty/sincere, the short-butstill-padded musical plays like the comedy sketches of a mid-level variety show from the 1970s (think Sonny Bono, alas, not Carol Burnett).

In "Love," a series of cartoonish romantic scenes are set in five eateries, with musical styles to match: Mobsters in an Italian restaurant. A Zorro-like bandit in a South of the Border eatery. You get the idea.

Gregg Coffin, writer of book, music and lyrics, saddles his creation with desperate gags, barely one-dimensional characters and plot twists that clunk. Here, the show is given a budget-conscious production featuring cringe-inducing vocals from a third of its three-person company. To the theater's credit, "Five Course Love" would require a brilliantly conceived and acted production to make it even palatable.

Hilarious in Beef & Boards' production of "Run for Your Wife" earlier this season, Jeff Stockberger's Captain Hook in its current "Peter Pan" is a boatload of fun, whether attempting to navigate a tricky hideaway entrance or getting increasingly caught up in his own musical scheme-making. It's the kind of performance that enlivens everything around it and makes what could be a good-enough show very recommendable.

A somnambulant Wendy, the lily-whitest Tiger Lily you've ever seen, and the ongoing awkwardness of the "Ugg-a-Wugg" Indian characterizations are minor distractions in a production that features some nice flying work (young Michael's initial takeoff is gasp-inducing), smooth direction by Eddie Curry, and solid vocals-especially from Tiana Checchia in the title role.

Dance Kaleidoscope's "Fathers and Sons" (May 15-18) lacked the fire of the best of this season but still offered plenty of pleasures. In choreographer David Hochoy's new work, "I Never Danced for My Father," a strong four-man introductory movement was followed by a series of sequences in which each dancer's father spoke (on video) followed by the son dancing. It concluded with Hochoy reminiscing about his own father and another collective dance. The strong idea weakened when it became clear that the initial video and dance pairing-featuring George Salinas and his father-would be the strongest, most revealing, most personal set.

The lengthy final piece, a revival of Hochoy's 1993 "Seasons," was offered in part as a celebration of 10-year DK vet Kenoth Shane Patton, who was engaging throughout. This piece, though, also lacked balance, with the Spring (birth) and Winter (death) sequences compelling attention in ways that the lengthier Summer (adolescence) and Fall (maturity) sequences could not. Absurd, seemingly designed-to-embarrass costumes in Summer (think "La Cage aux Garage Sale") and over-eager giddiness in Fall (Disney's "Fox and the Hound" anyone?) worked against solid effort by the dancers. Without having particularly showy roles in the program, dancers Jillian Godwin and Brittany Edwards popped with life.

The highlight of the program came with "Children of Lights," a guest spot featuring Kenyetta Dance Company's Artistic Director Nicholas A. Owens and high school dancer-to-watch Gregory Manning II. Their short piece was thrilling, moving and suspenseful, with two particularly dramatic leaps that generated collective wows from the crowd.
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