“ONE NIGHT ONLY” Show/Date Night by Andrea Santo Felcone

It’s “date night” and the stakes are high. You’ve gone through the trouble to arrange babysitting, made yourself up, and now you want a special night on the town with your special someone. Ah, but what to do? This past Saturday, my husband and I spent our date night thoroughly enjoying “ONE NIGHT ONLY (running as long as we can)”–the new show from Monica Bill Barnes & Company.

One Night Only

I had done my homework, and from what I’d read about the performers of this unique contemporary dance group, Monica Bill Barnes & Company sounded insanely interesting. Long-time creative partners, Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass are perhaps best known for The Museum Workout–a choreographed workout/museum tour through the hallowed halls of The Met. (I know I used the word “workout,” but these women are seriously FUN, as evidenced by their Museum Workout wardrobe of sequin dresses and sneakers to accompany their sweat.) So, although we had no idea what to expect from “ONE NIGHT ONLY”–in the interest of full disclosure–I was already predisposed to like Barnes and Bass from the start.

We arrived at the WP Theater (Women’s Project Theater) a little early and were delighted by the warmth and intimacy. This production is Monica Bill Barnes & Company’s Off-Broadway debut, and serves as the kick-off to the WP Theater’s 40th anniversary season. When you arrive early, you are treated to Robert Saenz de Viteri warming up the crowd with hilarious pre-show interviews. Audience interview participants are awarded boxes of Cracker Jacks, setting the tone for the smart yet whimsical show ahead. It turns out that Robert is an integral part of Monica Bill Barnes & Company. He narrates the entire show “in sports announcer style” from his perch in the audience. He’s witty and those humorous audience interviews are woven into the story arc of the show. Arrive early to enjoy this treat; participate if you can.

When the curtain opens on Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass, you will find yourself in awe of their physical presence–the sheer definition of their muscles; they’ve clearly spent a lifetime in service to the art of dance. The pair appears first on side-by-side treadmills, running in unison, to contemporary music. It soon becomes apparent that Barnes and Bass share a very special bond, (they almost seem identical twins) as any movement–a nod, a glance, even an eyebrow raise–is a communication between the two. If, at the very start, you aren’t sure whether you should laugh, you will find yourself unable to help it, when, while running, they apply lip gloss and hair spray–in complete synchronicity. (Although they break free for one moment as Barnes applies her hairspray in a freestyle motion while Bass sprays in one continuous arch over her head.) They are instantly likeable and intriguing.

One Night Only show

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Over the course of the next hour, these two will take you through a series of various sports-themed vignettes that display their physical prowess in personal challenges including: competitive finger snapping, non-stop treadmill running, leg balancing, extreme spinning, etc. (as they attempt to break their record of 108 spins)! The best way to describe this show is theatrical comedic dance (a genre I didn’t know even existed). These vignettes weave comedy into dance/athleticism (a refreshing combination). Barnes and Bass perform the show almost entirely without speaking (Barnes never speaks) and when Bass eventually does–it is only through a megaphone (one of many interesting juxtapositions). There is something so serious and yet so hilarious in all of their movements and mannerisms. You will find yourself laughing out loud and smiling throughout.

One Night Only show

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

However, as the performance progresses, you see there is much more here than vaudevillian-like acts and deadpan humor. A message emerges–a message about the toll it takes to be a dancer/athlete of this caliber. The years of struggle, injury, hardship–perseverance. You start to think more about the subtitle of this piece, “running as long as we can” and realize it isn’t a nod to a theater show running as long as it can, or a commentary on their treadmill stamina, but a reflection of how hard dance and sports athleticism is on the human body, especially an aging human body. Our friend Robert (he feels like a friend now) informs us that Barnes is 44 and Bass is 39 and we start to relate to the challenges they must experience as aging dancers, performers, artists. There is a point in the narration where a litany of their respective lifetime injuries is read aloud, and it is stunningly heartbreaking. It reinforces the audience’s connection to the performers and solidifies these women are tough as nails; they aren’t going down without a fight.

There is a range of emotion conveyed in this show, and whether you are someone who plays sports, or dances, or not, you can relate to the performers, because their story is so very human. Robert reminds us often the clock is ticking down on the performance, (“We are 33 minutes in”, etc.) but this ticking clock motif also serves to remind us of the time a dancer/athlete can be fully able to perform at peak level. It reminds us of ticking clocks we may hear in our own lives and how we all must come to grips with an aging body when the human spirit wants to continue to dance.

“ONE NIGHT ONLY (running as long as we can)” is a fun and thought-provoking date night or great girls night out and runs until October 8, 2017.

Schedule of shows and Tickets here: http://wptheater.org/show/one-night-only-running-as-long-as-we-can/

Tickets from $39.00

WP Theater at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, 2162 Broadway & 76th Street, NYC.

Tel. (212) 765-1706.

“ONE NIGHT ONLY (running as long as we can)”, in association with New Neighborhood, is created by Barnes, Bass, and Robert Saenz de Viteri. Choreographed by Monica Bill Barnes and designed by Kelly Hanson (Scenic and Costume Design) and Jane Cox (Lighting Design).

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