MULTI-MEDIA Dance, theater, and video combine in Brain Storm.
Just when you think that the members of Everett's company (formerly Everett Dance Theatre) couldn't possibly come up with anything more jaw-dropping than previous productions (Silas the Teenager, Home Movies, Body of Work, The Science Project), they reach into a vast realm of thoughts, perceptions, delusions, and clarifications on yet another oft-debated topic. After autism, personal reminiscences, labor issues, and the laws of science, the Everett creators have turned their attention to the human brain: its inner workings, its mysteries, its deviations, its magic.
With mother-and-son team Dorothy and Aaron Jungels as co-directors, Brain Storm was developed out of a residency at Crotched Mountain rehab center in New Hampshire and out of 18 months of "Brain Cafes" in Providence, in which experts in neuroscience and medical fields, plus individuals who'd experienced unusual brain events — from PTSD to Tourette's syndrome — participated in panel discussions about the brain.
From those experiences, personal stories, and theater and dance improvisations, the eight creators/performers — Justine and Grace Bevilacqua, Ari Brisbon, Aaron and Rachael Jungels, Marvin Novogrodski, Sokeo Ros, and Edgar Viloria — plus videographer Laura Colella, molded the one-hour presentation at the Everett Stage (formerly the Carriage House, April 20-22 and 27-29).
That hour-plus is so chockfull of images and movement that the audience comes away almost as breathless as the performers. On the small stage, designers and dancers have collaborated on a three-level set, based around four pieces of rolling scaffolding and initially covered by a parachute-sized piece of fabric onto which overlapping video projections prepare us for the multi-media, multi-challenging journey we are to undertake.
Our senses are overwhelmed with images and sounds: from a black-and-white train chugging across the screen to hazy tango dancers to Gene Kelly talking to a mirrored image of himself ("Alter Ego" from Cover Girl) to a clip from Fried Green Tomatoes (with Idgie and Ruth at the train tracks) to glimpses of Everett dancers to pulsing lights inside the tent-like structure that seem to make the "brain" pulse and throb. The music ranges from Coldplay to Dr. Dre, from soundtracks (American Beauty, Romeo and Juliet) to tango to Césaria Évora.
There are narratives from Aaron about trying to conquer his fear of death, from Rachael about finding a "happy trigger," from Edgar about holding his friend Angelo in his arms after he was shot, from Sokeo about being afraid of his memories (he was born in a Cambodian refugee camp) and longing for a different family. Rachael delivers an instructive poem about the cortex and the hippocampus (the cortex stores memories; the hippocampus chooses which to keep). Marvin enacts a professor having a stroke, becoming giddy and following a clown-like character around.
Woven through all the stories and information are elements of dance, video, and theater. Sokeo dances and interacts with projected illustrations of neurons, and we learn that Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1906 Nobel laureate, considered the founder of modern neuroscience) loved, from childhood, to draw the body and eventually brain cells. Aaron and Rachael do a brief duet with one of the rolling platforms as their third partner, allowing them to hold its bars and swing out or to hover, trapeze-like, from it, and then to pull each other away from their daydreams, back into the solidness of everyday life. They also interview their cousin Joel about his schizophrenia and their Grandma Jo, who remembers nothing of her past but longs to meet someone who knew her back then, and "it wouldn't break my heart." An argument between Rachael and Sokeo, as her amygdala, shows his rage and fear but also his admission that he doesn't like "the heart — it makes you soft."