What to make of Nut, performance collective MGM Grand’s show at The Kitchen through this weekend? From the experiential standpoint, it’s full of movement divided into three acts (defined by costume changes). The work is described as being structured like a nut by this group that usually performs in unconventional spaces, like garages (though it’s fitting that the Kitchen is a garage-like space). Right off the bat, you know it’s a bit subversive, as Jmy Leary duckwalks onstage and whisper-shouts an introduction, including that their lurex dresses were courtesy Neil Greenberg, who didn’t want them anymore. She’s joined by Biba Bell and Piage Martin (Paige’s stage name for this project), who move in what appears to be a magnetically-attracted cluster. The movement parodies an ultra-girly style, like lyrical solid gold dancers, or high school jazz. And like super self-involved high school girls, they’re reluctant to leave one another’s clinging embrace.
They bat their false eyelashes, focused on us like they’re looking in a mirror, which they are, in a way. The music (put together by R. McNeill, who sits sidestage next to a reel-to-reel tape deck) ricochets through several Motown hits (does Nina Simone qualify as Motown? she’s there too), halting at times to trip over sampled phrases and words, in particular the work’s title. Spotlights cut across the stage dimension into horizontal bands, which the dancers dart through to an almost strobe effect, swooping their limbs at the first row audience members like giant bats in the dark.
For the second part, they wear thrift shop specials—a plush turquoise house robe, a smoking jacket dinner suit, a Dress Barn grey polyester pants suit (the jacket’s worn open with nothing underneath). The movement has grown larger, less prissy, and they move boldly and unselfconsciously. An intermission is announced, during which the audience is invited onstage to drink beer and eat chips as Martin dances stealthily among the minglers. Leary and Bell have put on pointe shoes, leotards decorated with colorful felt shapes, and picture masks of their profiles. Kneeling, they begin moving their ribcages in circles, increasing in energy and amplitude. On point, they carve alien, sometimes animalistic shapes, fading over their toes and shins to a kneel. One clambers on the other and they lock together, rolling across stage like meaty tumbleweed. A pair of legs unfolds, balancing like a seesaw, feet alternately thwacking the floor. They gallop in circles, supporting each other, crawl up the aisles, doing aura readings on viewers, and clamber over the top railing. It’s a fascinating, well, nut to attempt to crack.