Some shows defy explanation. 4Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer is one of those shows. What choreographers Yossi Berg & Oded Graf have created is a twisted world that succeeds in bending your mind, even as it falls flat.
4Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer is a mixture of theatre, spoken word, dance, and performance art. Beginning in darkness with a sculpted deer in a god-light, the show begins as four men dance a salsa step in luchador masks. The steps are stationary and the music floats from Bach to Benny Hill style classic comedy (spring sounds included). With grunts and shouts, the foursome quickly turn on one another in an extended sequence of one up-manship – chests and limbs thrown against one another in comic violence. Then the story begins and the show takes a darker turn as the role of the four men in the fate of a young woman is called into question.
The show is visually interesting. The splay of colour and athleticism ensure the audience is never visually bored. But the narrative arc is intentionally disrupted causing a rift between the expected resolution and the subtle trickle of an ending that we receive. This has the potential to feel fascinating, however, the move feels done for comedy, not insight. And it shows. In the small house of a Sunday afternoon, the comic moments failed to gain momentum turning the potential for comic absurdity into discomfort. The storytelling was well delivered and intriguingly crafted, but left uncomfortable questions which were never satisfactorily addressed.
4Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer is a fascinating piece of performance art that is best suited to a large, loud audience that is up for a dive into absurdist humour. Unfortunately, it did not receive this audience and instead became little more than thought soup. Filled with nutritious bits, but ultimately unsatisfying.
4Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer by Yossi Berg & Oded Graf Dance Theatre. Presented as part of the 2017 Chutzpah! Festival. Visit https://chutzpahfestival.com for more information.