The Hourglass in The Stop - Time Chronicles
Athenaeum Theatre, Studio 1. Choreographed by Mark Yonally. Performed by the Chicago Tap Theatre.
When you blend tap dance with a comic book, the lightest things rise to the top. In the case of Chicago Tap Theatre’s evening-length show (full title: Hourglass in the Stop-Time Chronicles: An All New Superhero Tap Dance Opera), those would be thought bubbles. The use of projected dialogue over the heads of the performers is one of the cutest things we’ve seen in a while. Unfortunately, the other elements of this lighthearted story-dance land rather heavily.
Yonally relies on alt-pop music (Sia, Portishead) to shape the duration and mood of almost every scene. In his last effort, Changes: A Science Fiction Tap Opera, he used a suite of Bowie songs, and somehow it worked. But in Hourglass, the overproduced sounds of trip-hop don’t do much to help the audience hear the subtle changes of timbre that allow tap dancing to convey a character’s emotion in complex terms. Often the dancers in Hourglass resort to exaggerated facial expressions to move the story along.
While the CTT dancers are capable, generous performers, no one matches the delicate articulation of Yonally, who gave himself only a bit part. It’s not clear why he continues to focus on pop-culture driven ensemble works instead of creating vehicles that expand upon the sophistication of his solo artistry.—Asimina Chremos