Last Night

Teeth, But Not A Lot of Bite

Portland troupe feed us Grub

By Steve Wiecking February 13, 2009

You can have a little elbow but that’s it, okay? (photo courtesy Aaron Busch)

Is it difficult for performance art dancers to maintain relationships? I mean, how many times can you possibly call someone up and say, “Hey, come see my show. I’ll be squealing like a stuck pig and that overweight gal in our troupe is going to contemplate her belly with a video camera. And you like strobe lights, right”?

That’s just one thought you might have during the less compelling moments of Grub, a sometimes playful but completely inconsequential goof-off which Portland’s tEEth offers at On the Boards through Saturday. The show features all of the qualities mentioned above—I saw the big girl’s reverie coming from a mile away (god, I’m a terrible body fascist, I know)—as well as occasionally volcanic sound design and a blessed sense of humor.

Everybody’s clad in what appear to be padded inmate jumpers that must be inspired by the troupe’s tendency toward mumbling zombie marches and twitchy choreography accompanied by should’ve-cut-it-in-rehearsal vocal affectations (“Hey, can anybody do a stuck pig? Let’s just try it.”).

When the improvisational-based troupe (2 men, 4 women) relax they boast a child’s happy sense of the absurd. Two women stoically sing out “Aaaaah!” while the men partnering them run fingers over the ladies’ lips, step on their stomachs, and find other deft physical ways to manipulate the off-the-wall aria. And a couple of the women have the malleable, mirthful faces of silent film comediennes. There’s also a nicely simple and trippy use of blue screen via a live video feed that morphs the company’s heads into animated, Salvador Dali-esque eyes.

Too much of this, however, plays like lunatics on parade. The show is just an hour, and it ends right when it should. But none of it sticks with you—there’s nothing to chew on later. Except maybe the thought that they all have very loyal friends.

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