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Ira Glass in Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host

Before you see "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host,"you hear it. The male and female voices bantering in the darkened theater cheerfully argue about whether to begin the proceedings with talk, rather than dance, so as to "start with an idea,"the implication seeming to be that movement is less fit for conveying content. The man making this argument is Ira Glass, the host and creator of the popular public radio show "This American Life. " And perhaps he is only engaging in smart showbiz. For Mr. Glass, who is no stranger to the theater, is clearly the star of this charmingly homespun show - which traces interlocking themes of love, mortality and dedication through live talking and dancing and radio snippets - and words are his medium. Thursday night at the Town Hall, it seemed clear that a large, vocal portion of the audience had come to see Mr. Glass (its members sometimes broke into spontaneous cheers at his stage entrances, especially those involving dance routines), and not the muscularly precise dancers Monica Bill Barnes, who also directed and choreographed the show, and Anna Bass. This is no surprise, given the reach of "This American Life. "But it was at times disheartening to see how the 90-minute performance relegated Ms. Barnes and Ms. Bass to backup dancers - even when they had center stage.

This isn't to say that "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host"isn't both endearing and entertaining, only that it limits itself structurally and conceptually, and steers clear of any difficult material. (There is, for example - and disappointingly - no mention of the controversial theater collaboration Mr. Glass engaged in, unwittingly, with the monologuist Mike Daisey.)

Ms. Barnes, Ms. Bass and Mr. Glass are all self-deprecating hams, playing up the humor in ways both silly and winning. Mr. Glass's material moves easily through such subjects as a "Riverdance"touring company's trying to win the lottery, to the deaths of loved ones, to the thorny rewards of longtime partnerships. He stays in a suit, while Ms. Barnes and Ms. Bass move among various costumes (sparkles and suits, of course), in dance numbers that stick to a fairly limited palette while combining elements of pantomime, vaudeville and modern-dance forms. Mr. Glass does step gamely through choreographed numbers, and the dancers are heard on tape talking with intelligence and sensitivity about the difficulties and pleasures of collaboration, and the sometimes terribly short performing lives of people in their field. But dance and radio never get as fruitfully entangled as they might. Source link

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