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Hamilton's music for "Ezekiel's Wheel," on the other hand, is most exciting. It combines instruments with Hamilton's own vocalizing, in many ways reminiscent of Meredith Monk's stuff but much richer. The dance begins with the whole troupe (except for Buraczeski), in light-colored clothes, weaving complex, celebratory patterns. The mood shifts and the music stops, to be replaced by Baldwin reading a funeral eulogy from his Go Tell It on the Mountain. As his voice rings out, Janet Wolverton, in dark clothing, moves torturously through the sentiments, and the rest of the cast, now in dark clothing, too, return to move slowly and sadly. Then the pace picks up, both costumes and stage lighten, and an even more complex celebration completes the dance.

"Swing Concerto" really swung, and Buraczeski was particularly animated. The contrast between his late-middle-aged body (heavy upper torso and some obvious stiffness) and the bodies of the rest of his troupe, however, was consistently obtrusive. May he continue to make such joyful dance, of course, but perhaps it's time for him to stop performing with much younger dancers.

-- Harry Weber

Compiled and directed by Ralph E. Greene
Unity Theatre Ensemble

Unity Theatre Ensemble's most recent work, Brown Sugar!, celebrated the African-American woman through a selection of prose, poetry, music and dance. Ralph E. Greene's arrangement of the material followed a roughly chronological pattern at first, tracing the horrors of slavery and racism, then fanned out into a sampling of individual lives. Curiously, white people in general and black men in particular loomed almost as large as black women in this celebration of black women. I recognized a few of the selections. Most were new to me, though they covered material so well worn that, without more reshaping, some of it veered toward the comic. I do wish the program had identified the sources clearly, beyond a simple list of authors.

Bill Murphy's templelike set gave a religious cast to the proceedings, which began with an invocation to the strikingly carved earth-mother figure that dominated the stage. The goddess took an Egyptian shape, and I wondered whether a West African figure would not be both more appropriate for the material and more likely to represent a matriarchal society. Bonnie Harmon's flowing, full-skirted, earth-toned costumes and Mark Schilling's carefully modulated lights added to the ceremonial quality.

With Andrea Smythe's deeply felt choreography, John Selders' enveloping musical arrangements and Greene's careful and thorough direction, the cast of eight women radiated energy, confidence, a sense of style and a sense of self.

-- Bob Wilcox

By Samuel Beckett
St. Louis Black Repertory Company

The Black Rep had a considerable success last season with a production of I'm Not Rappaport featuring Ron Himes and Wayne Salomon in the lead roles and Joneal Joplin as director. So why not a Godot with the same personnel?

For a couple of reasons. First, though Waiting for Godot is an influential play, it isn't particularly interesting. People say it's funny, and it can be -- sort of -- with enough clowning. But even great clowning could not dispel the heaviness of theme, the lengthiness of the dialogue, and the instantaneous dej`a vu engendered by the second act's being almost a carbon copy of the first. Godot and other Beckett I've read have made me wonder whether he wasn't both a put-on and a bully -- a put-on in the sense that "The Emperor's New Clothes" is a put-on, a bully in the sense that he's seeing how much dullness we can stand before we get up and leave. A whole bunch of people did, right in the midst of the action, the night I was there.

The Black Rep's production is pretty good. Dunsi Dai's set is beautiful in itself, and Joseph W. Clapper has lit it, and the action, with tact and elan. Himes and Salomon are both fine actors, too, and I've seen both of them be wonderfully funny, given the right play. The trouble is, they're actors, not clowns: Despite their own and Joplin's inventiveness, their repertory of mugging, slapstick and so on is limited and overused. A.C. Smith, the production's Pozzo, on the other hand, can clown and can mug. I've never seen anyone bug out his eyes like Smith does -- they seem to get out past his cheekbones. His bellowing and posturing are exactly broad enough for the cardboard of his character, and his physique, especially stretched out on his back, is just right for a comic bully. Robert Mitchell handles the relatively thankless role of Lucky with his usual competence, and Cameron Roberson is handsome and winning as Godot's messenger.

-- Harry Weber

Conceived and arranged by Chris Petersen
Goldenrod Showboat

After a near-death experience, the Goldenrod Showboat has come back to life with a fresh coat of paint and an uneven production. The material itself -- some of the best theater songs of Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Kander and Ebb, and Cole Porter -- sparkles. Chris Petersen, who leads the onstage combo, does bright, attractive things with some of his Kern arrangements. But by the time he gets to Porter, he degenerates to elevator music and a painful (to these ears) kidding of one of Porter's loveliest pieces, "So in Love." Janet Strzelec's staging ranges from the amusing to the banal.

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