‘Broken Accidents’

Joan Sullivan
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The cast of “Broken Accidents will deliver performances until Sunday at the LSPU Hall. — Submitted photo

“Broken Accidents” has an interesting pedigree for a dance piece. Distilled from a collection of short stories by Philip Arima, it was adapted by Joel Thomas Hynes, and then intensively workshopped by different groups of performers, all overseen, and now directed by Lois Brown. Such script-based choreography is not always the norm for dance.

In fact, it may be a mistake to slot this into the “dance” category.

The program lists “movement collaborators,” and that is the narrative avenue for this work, with story, atmosphere, character and ambience coming largely through distinct, often mannered, small scenes and vignettes, linked by the drift and flow of the cast as their dynamics and positioning bring them into interactions, and lead them to enter and exit the stage.

The world of “Broken Accidents” seems steeped in some faceless yet threatening futuristic tyranny. Periodic “New Leadership Bulletins” instruct the populace how to behave — to get up and go to work, to hold no secrets, and so on. At times the characters make some reference to the restrictions of their existence — one can recall when even dogs roamed free, for example. But for the most part they are immersed in some odd, emergent, stifling environment. People have their parents “put down.”

Making soup is so confusing, a bureaucratic department of domesticity must be consulted. Families are fragmented, clusters that come together for simple moments and then scatter.

We begin at the scene of an accident. Suicide Pete (Peter Trosztmer) has lived up to his name and plummeted from a tall building. His girlfriend (Sarah Joy Stoker) is quickly at his side, but immediately denies that she knows him.

The onlookers include some vaguely medical figures (Lisa Porter, Mark Bath and Phil Winters), who seem all too familiar with such events, as well as a mother (Susan Kent), trying to shield her daughter (Molly Graham) from the gruesome view. All these latter performers will also play other roles, forming crowds, dancing under echoes of disco balls, sliding and gliding in sculpted pas de deux with wheel-based office chairs.

“Broken Accidents” unfolds in a series of interlocking scenes, sometimes quite brief —  sometimes wordless — sometimes resembling swift and skilled vaudeville acts. There are several layers embedded in the stylistic developments, including love, grief and horticulture, but much of the work is concerned with memory. Is it good to remember something, even if it is something bad? Is it a betrayal not to? Or is forgetfulness simply a signature of good citizenship?

All the characters have opportunities for dialogue and movement, and all get an opportunity to hold attention and focus. Kent, for instance, well, Kent can pretty much do anything she wants on stage, and she will keep the audience with her, but she has a turn here as a street preacher, who glimmers with a potent theology, that is particularly strong. Trosztmer and Stoker have a lovely duet, both languid and ardent, unfurled against a musical score that is largely hummed by the rest of the cast. Everyone gets to hit some particular note; there is generosity here.

“Broken Accidents” has many strengths. But it does have some weaknesses.

One problem with such a nonconforming piece is that it does need to pay heed to the dramatic arc it is projecting. This seems to build, and then lose itself in tangents, and then refind its core and momentum. This can throw the audience for a bit. But it does maintain, throughout, its skillful presentation, many moments of humour, and sheer commitment from the cast who are all up for this unconventional ride.

“Broken Accidents” continues at the LSPU Hall until Sunday. Curtain time is 8 p.m.; running time approximately 75 minutes.

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