Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wild things come out at night for CPT’s Pandemonium ‘10

Here’s how Pandemonium, the annual benefit party for Cleveland Public Theater, lives up to its name. For five hours, the whole CPT campus, from the Gordon Square Theater to Parish Hall, fills with overwhelming creativity, more sounds and tastes and sights than any person could take in. A marching band parades past theater tents, a band stage, a busy bar. Ten-foot-tall monsters recreated from Maurice Sednak’s Where the Wild Things Are roam the crowd with a dancing Max. Rappellers from Cleveland Rock Gym, with tiger-stripes painted across their skin, descended the building’s façade. Inside, the city’s top modern dance troupes perform excerpts from their latest shows.

Food overwhelms for the first hour, with table after hors d’oeuvre table from one of the best collections of restaurants outside the Silver Spoons party. (Indian Delight, the new restaurant in CPT’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood, stood out with its creamy chicken masala.) Then, guests spread out among 20 stages for entertainment, including dozens of quick one-act plays. New spaces in the theater’s northwest corner hosted a cabaret of acoustic musicians, stand-up comics and one-act plays. Highlights included Cat Kenney's "Not Exactly A Palindrome," in which an awkward blind date begins to repeat itself, the same small talk returning in reverse order, with the actors finding completely different inflections to go with a completely scrambled meaning. (In Parish Hall, where the installation "The Petition Box" was decorated with hanging images clipped from magazines, I was excited to see the photo of jazz pianist Montana Taylor from The Terminal in Cleveland Magazine's June issue.)

Though the plays and dances and music were all new, CPT finished the night with a few highlights from last year. The evening’s third act began with an “aerial dance” by Rina Nouveau, a Cirque du Soleil-esque performance in which she wrapped and unwrapped herself in two long silk sashes suspended from the ceiling, rose and fell and spun sensually through the air. As the crowd in the theater applauded her, the human dessert tables entered the room, dressed in dark Goth stylings and carrying trays of little pastries at waist height.

Lounge Kitty, Cleveland’s queen of kitsch, sang from the balcony. “If you’re feeling artsy-fartsy, say yah-uh!” she exclaimed, then launched a bolero-y rendition of “Like A Virgin.” The Gordon Square Theater transformed into a huge dance floor. And soon it became obvious this was no average dance crowd. A gang of six or so young dancers were executing professional-looking twirls, poses, moves, and flirty top-hat exchanges among the guests. They were member of the Inlet Dance Theatre troupe, off-duty after performing their piece “BALListic” earlier that night. They were still dancing joyously at quarter to midnight as the event’s end neared.

Amid the arty-stylish crowd, which ranged from guys in hipster T-shirts to women in strapless dresses and feathers in their hair, I spotted several politicos – city councilmen Jeff Johnson, Matt Zone, and Joe Cimperman, county executive candidate Ken Lanci – urban-art figures such as Terry Schwarz of the Cleveland Urban Design Center, and performers such as comedian Mike Polk.

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