FRINGE 2018 REVIEW: 'Damage'

Pedamentum Dance Theatre dramatizes abuse experiences, using melancholy song and dance

click to enlarge "Damage" - Photo: Paul Wilson
Photo: Paul Wilson
"Damage"
Pedamentum Dance Theatre’s 2018 Fringe offering is almost a remix of writer and artistic director Mandie Reiber’s entry last year, Anonymous. Relying on true stories provided by locals who have survived abuse, Reiber and company dramatize their tribulations into vignettes of suffering, colored with melancholy song and dance.

 The show’s thesis is a simplistic, rueful declaration: “We love the people that hurt us.” Damage does not take its time getting into its core message and, even though the five stories shared throughout the show are purportedly sourced from different people’s real lives, the show is tonally monotonous. Each story is like a confessional, exploring the myriad aspects victims of abuse deal with, addressing the cyclical nature of abusive relationships and, despite the abused’s best efforts, it’s not always possible to overcome their family curse.

 The stage at the Art Academy of Cincinnati is bare, save for a lone lightbulb atop a monopod. It’s used for dramatic scene changes and even as a dance partner. The cast uses this blank canvas to highlight movements, the show’s most compelling aspect. All involved are talented performers who not only dance and act gracefully, but harmonize and chant with chilling severity.

The show’s musical choices are moody and minor key. One section seemed out of sync with the soundtrack, a medley centered around Haddaway’s 1993 Euro dance pop hit “What is Love?” which without any context is quite effective: The song’s chorus “What is love / Baby don’t hurt me” fits right in with the show’s themes. But if you’re a fan of the 1998 comedy film A Night at the Roxbury, this tune might catch you off guard and, despite the show’s best efforts, make you smile for a second.

Damage offers stirring dramatic performances mingled with elegant choreography, but is impeded by a single-note script. Just because the stories are true does not mean they are used to maximum effect. In the show, an insightful question is raised: “If abuse is all you know, what do you replace it with?” Pedamentum Dance Theatre might want to ask itself this question when considering what to produce next.

The Cincinnati Fringe Festival runs through June 10. Find showtimes, tickets and more info here.

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