The real Midway Avenue, the street where performer Nichole Canuso lived as a child, is in the 'burbs, Lansdowne to be exact. Last weekend, she replicated it as
, a physical theater piece, at FringeArts.
On either side of the stage floor, she chalked 24 "memories" ranging from tape (masking and recorder) to piano to speech, spin, jump. Corresponding to them, sometimes uncannily, were Chopin's 24 Preludes, which were composed as memories. Troy Herion provided some original music and created superb sound design that followed the Preludes.
As Canuso revealed that her mother often played the Chopin, she created a piano outline on the floor with tape, then sketched in house, table, couch, TV. It was at the table that her mother "came out to me" when Canuso was 9, first explaining what "gay" was.
Everyday objects were placed near the chalked memories: broom, colander, box grater, music stand. Canuso made use of them in No. 3. She slipped wrists through the handles of the grater and colander, wrapped her neck in scarves, and somehow managed to carry most everything while covering the stage.
The cleverest section has her lying on the floor in front of the TV, light shining on her face. It's accompanied by a demonic, many-beats-per-minute prelude. Childhood fears take on life in shadows on the back wall as the grater rises, first like a monster with eyes that follow her, and then, turned on its side, a rabbit hole her shadow crawls down.
Artists frequently go back to the same well to draw inspiration and action. Canuso has done a version of the child-TV-watching before, and her choreographic lexicon is still on the thin side, using extended twirling that sends her long hair flying, jumping, standing in place while making arm gestures and eye rolls. At one point, she explains her movement explorations were limited by the edges of the house.
Though she comes from a theater family - her father, Joe Canuso, is artistic director of Theater Exile, and her husband, Mike Kiley, is a composer - neither had input here. Canuso always works hard on her productions, yet they have a deceptive simplicity. Over the 18 years I've watched her dances, I feel her previous works were preludes to this, her most winsome and revelatory.