Musical attempts dilute strengths of 'Dancing'


POSTED: Thursday, October 15, 2009

In the fall of 1944, the Allies launched an ambitious but risky attack on the Western Front that could have resulted in a quick wartime victory, but the Allies overreached and fell short of their objectives. The Actors Group Dark Night production of “;Dancing Between Heaven and Hell,”; writer/director Eric Nemoto's third play inspired by Jeff Katts' “;Soul Savior”; film trilogy, likewise takes excessive risks with similar results.

“;Dancing”; is at heart a drama/fantasy-horror story that's less dark and grim than “;Ultio Venio”; last year. Vocal numbers and lengthy dance segments dilute its strengths.

First, there isn't nearly enough music to make the show work as a musical. When characters break into song — that drag on much longer than necessary — they break the mood and interrupt the action.

Second, with two exceptions, the lengthy dance numbers are bland, adding little to the show beyond extending its running time.

The show's strengths are the performances of key cast members.

First and foremost is Curtis Duncan (Haniel), who returns in the role of the angel with a distinctive Irish accent.




”;Dancing Between Heaven & Hell”;

        » Where: The Actors Group Theater, 1116 Smith St.

» When: 7:30 p.m. Monday-Oct. 24, and 2 p.m. Oct. 25


» Cost: $10 general admission


» Call: 722-6941 or www.taghawaii.net


Nemoto has given Duncan much more to work with in terms of character development this time, and he makes good use of the opportunity.

The other bright star is Thomas Smith (Gaap). Most of Nemoto's demons are played as exaggerated chew-the-scenery-and-snarl types, but the physicality of Smith's portrayal of a demon lord with power equivalent to that of an archangel sets him apart. Smith creates a creature that seems part humanoid and part insect or some other life form.

In this sequel to Nemoto's previous “;Soul Savior”; spinoff, Todd and Reina Barron have broken up. Todd is out of the picture. Pastor Jared is still around. Reina is now a prosecuting attorney in a case in which the defendant claims that “;voices”; make him physically abuse his wife.

Meanwhile, the demon Agaliarept has been punished for his past failures to defeat Haniel by being sentenced to spend eternity suffering with the damned humans in Hell.

His prosecutor, Gaap, plots to destroy Haniel by using the angel's strengths and vulnerabilities against him.

Renee Garcia (Reina) encores as the role of human soul savior.

Ashley Layfield (Jacqueline Claxton) makes her TAG debut in the role of Reina's posthumous daughter. Layfield dances an extended solo in a scene involving an audition for “;A Chorus Line.”; The scene seems written-to-order for Layfield and the number is one of the two that adds to the production.

Deanne August (Succubus) plays the demonic femme fatale as a bored private dancer. David “;Kawika”; Williams brings a welcome bit of levity to Act II as a flamboyant casting agent.

The setting of all Dark Night productions is dictated by the set designed for TAG's main schedule show. This one piggybacks on a courtroom drama and so the action includes lengthy scenes in which angels and demons are tried by juries of their peers for errors and miscalculations.