Most of us have experienced the feeling of being a wallflower at one point or other. In the '60's and '70's, the decisions about who stood against the wall and who got to take action and 'lead' began to be questioned."
This is what San Jose Repertory Theatre artistic director Timothy Near has to say about the Rep's American premiere of Peta Murray's Australian comedy Wallflowering, subtitled "a Ballroom Dance Bonanza," which celebrates the art of ballroom dancing and begins previews Jan. 5 at the California theatre, opens Jan. 10, and runs through Feb. 2.
The story follows flashbacks of Peg and Cliff Small, amateur ballroom dancers living in Australia in the 1980's. Their alter egos are represented by professional dancers, gliding together through tunes such as "Some Enchanted Evening" and "Two for the Blues" while the couple trips through their marriage. Peg's feminist revelation forces them to discover they must dance to a new tune if their marriage is to survive.
Wallflowering certainly was no bystander in the Australian theatre scene, where it premiered in 1989 at the Canberra Theatre Company, transferred to the Spoleto Festival in Melbourne, and then to the Belvior Street Theatre which produced it for the Festival of Sydney in 1990. The play has since been produced all over Australia, in New Zealand, in the United Kingdom, and in Poland, where a production was translated and aired on Polish television in 1994.
Timothy Near directs, and finds Wallflowering "a charming play that explores ballroom dance as a metaphor for the beauty, clear structure, and elegance of pre-Liberation marriage and also it's rigidity and obvious unequal delegation of power and control." In an article about the show, Near revealed her excitement about working again with Award-winning choreographer Bick Goss, who has danced and choreographed in the Bay area for several years, and collaborated with Near on the Rep's production of The 1940's Radio Hour. The duo chose the music for the production, Near explained , "sometimes for the content, sometimes for the lyrics, sometimes because the singer was Australian, sometimes for the inherent danceability and sometimes because it just overflowed with romance and drama. "
The show incorporates all different styles of dance. Near says, "...just as the characters struggle to break out of their patterns and routines, the dance also moves into other forms--soft shoe, tap, social dance, feminist modern dance, etc.
The cast is rounded out by New York actors Becky London and Michael Butler. London appeared in Ubu at Lincoln Center and in many of Charles Busch's productions Off-Broadway. Butler appeared on Broadway in Macbeth and Two Shakespearean Actors, and most recently played John Adams in 1776 in summer 1996 at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera.
Susan Lynn Bragg accompanies Goss as the female dancer. Bragg has appeared in the Obie-Award-winning Bits and Pieces, and in other Off-Broadway and regional productions.
For more information about tickets for Wallflowering please refer to the regional listing for San Jose Repertory on Playbill On-Line.
--By Blair Glaser