Abe Lincoln had an irksome dream he'd be assassinated just two weeks before he actually was. Dancer Lindsay Browning and her father, actor David Browning, collaborated in a dance theater work, inspired by the dream, titled Lincoln Luck which evoked a dreamlike atmosphere rather than a narrative.
It premiered at the Painted Bride over Lincoln's birthday weekend with performances Friday and Saturday.
The audience entered through the cafe with David Browning, bearded and in Lincoln dress, inviting us to follow him into the theater. Of course it's the theater where Lincoln goes to meet his end.
Lindsay Browning is there waiting onstage in a harness and hoop skirt with three long white trains trailing out in different directions. With one red-gloved hand, she waves the air before her, writhing within these confines like a woman possessed. She soon sets herself free and dances to Thomas Wave's sitar, guitar, and organic sound environment.
The Painted Bride set included three long vertical rectangles for poetic video projections by Gaetan Spurgin. Tommy Burkel is the youngster walking in one, Myra Bazell dances in another. A third featured abstract images.
The lighting by Madison Cario infused the work with a mournful aura that also helped to create its ambiguity. This moody atmosphere sometimes overwhelmed the work, becoming more dominant than the meaning, which was hard to decipher. We were supposed to be viewing Lincoln as a 217-year-old dancing with an imagined daughter in 2026. This did not come through for me in the performance but was merely told to us by David Browning.
Nevertheless, if you took it as a mystical dream and just went with it, it had its moments of clarity and beauty.
When John Luna joins Lindsay Browning in a duet, they swing gold pocket watches on a chain together. Luna takes a walk to and fro, still swinging his watch by its fob, but it pulls him in the opposite direction each time. Is he supposed to be the young Lincoln and is time pulling him back?
David Browning's soliloquies are lovely, notably the one where Lincoln speculates on what would have happened if he'd had a daughter: "A girl would've changed us," he says, "to dance while bullets rang out."
He is most charming when he carries in a birthday balloon and what looks like a birthday pie with candles that read 87.