George Stamos’ CLOAK at BAC

George Stamos is a great mover. He dances with precision, style, grace and incredibly fluidity. In CLOAK, which we saw on Thursday night at the the Baryshnikov Arts Center, Stamos was joined by Luciane Pinto and Clara Furey in a three-person interdisciplinary exploration of identity.

The performance begins with Stamos having a conversation with himself – and that seems to set the tone for the evening. Though there are three performers, the way they interact suggests that these are actually multiple aspects of a single self, sometimes in concert, sometimes in conflict. Stamos uses a number of performative strategies to interest effect. One is the ingenious use of video to mix performers – at several points in the show one or another performer is hidden by the video screen, with the bottom half being live and the top half being video:

This is a very literal expression of the hybrid self and sometimes it works better than others. Particularly interesting was a moment when Stamos was stage right, being videotaped live and projected onto the screen, as Luciane Pinto did some rigorous, balletic legwork below the screen.

Another successful tact was when the performers used white fabric sleeves to cover their heads, making blank masks which they drew on with magic markers. At one point Stamos appears with one of these blank masks and proceeds to work through layer after layer, drawing a face on and removing the mask, only to reveal another blank mask beneath.

There were some clever and amusing costuming choices, particularly a sequence where Luciane and George appeared as outsized bunnies, like an evil version of Jessica Rabbit:

Photo Nikol Mikus

In the program notes Stamos says:

“In the making of Cloak I was inspired by the multiplicity of self that is in all of us. It seems we all have several genders in us, as well as many roles we play and or become from time to time, depending on who we are with and how we feel. I’m interested in how identity plays out in movement or states of being and how it shifts, when we alone or under the gaze of another. Aesthetically, the performance creations by Leigh Bowery that I saw in London in the early 90s left a lasting imprint on me. In Cloak, my choice of costume and a play between the monstrous and kitsch reveals this imprint.”

Cloak is filled with ideas – maybe a little too full. The performers are all excellent, but the various sequences seemed a bit too disparate and as a whole it didn’t quite seem to gel. Maybe that was the point – that we are fragmented, that our identities express themselves in fits and starts, that we move jaggedly from self to self as we negotiate psychology and interpersonal relationships. Cloak is an ambitious, if inconsistent, work that left me curious to see what Stamos will do in the future.

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