A.E. Housman knew a poem was good if he thought of it while shaving and it made his skin bristle. Bottom line: Who can say what’s good art and what’s not good art? When the stage goes dark, the critics stop writing, and the festival starts planning for next year, what are you going to remember? I suspect shows that sent a tingle down your spine. We can argue about aesthetics, but no one can tell you how you felt. Here are five shows that did for me what good poetry did for Housman (though I wasn’t shaving at the time; I was watching the shows, but you knew that already).
The silver-maned fox with wide-open eyes appearing, disappearing, and reappearing amid gorgeous and ornately decorated slides all accompanied by an exotic three-string Japanese guitar. Just magical.
• Don John
The dead father of one of Don John’s conquests dressed in his Army finest and standing beneath a high light with snow gently falling on his head. It’s a hallucination, for sure, but a beautiful image, too.
• Good Cop Bad Cop
A women pretending to be a cat who is preparing to pounce on a rolled up piece of tape. On the wall behind her, we see the the same woman in a video interview recounting the experience that we are about to see, as if she were on a reality TV show. She says: “Oh, yeah. I was all about that.”
• Story of a Rabbit
Hugh Hughes putting on his tie while at the same time a video is projected on the wall behind him of his dead father putting on his tie. The resemblance is striking — and the metaphor so deeply moving.
• Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Two dancers who seem to be lovers move as if they are one body, then two, and then one again. They break from each other and she steps against a shadow, which turns out to be another dancer — perhaps her secret lover. The trick of light was stunning and marvelous.
• Sheep’s Clothing
Paul Whitty, as the overweight and underpaid Luggs, has just witnessed his friends getting an ass-kicking by the traitor in their midst. “Oh, hell,” he says, after a long pause. He can’t let his friends down, so he steps up to get his ass kicked too. A hilarious display of loyalty and friendship.