Photo: Michael DeAngelis


by: Marcina Zaccaria

Animals Performance Group returns to Dixon Place for Chase: What Matters Most? –  a social commentary rising from a corporate heap.


Sliding down the center aisle one by one, the performers in Chase: What Matters Most? bring their skills in dance, poetry, and spirituality to the stage. After having performed in Puppet Blok at Dixon Place in 2012 and at Incubator Arts Project, the ANIMALS deliver their observations on policy, honoring the beauty of symbolic language and group movement. Dressed in corporate blue shirts, the five performers playing Chase wink a bit at lower level employees who make the banking industry spin.


The text for CHASE: What Matters Most?, delivered in poetic bits, winds throughout the piece. To define what matters most relies on a clear sense of consciousness. Moving through every environment, the ANIMALS are cogs in a bigger machine. Ben Gullard, the Prop Hacker, has crafted work stations with spinning coffee cups on bicycle wheels and used computer parts under makeshift seating. By crowding the front part of the stage (and then revealing a large clear space upstage for a duet that involves intricate contact improv), the set is a viable performance space where anything can happen. The characters evolve throughout the piece from hiding people (almost appearing homeless and on the floor) to skilled students of spirit. Chase: What Matters Most? asks: how are people – and the relationships we make with them, – everything?


Songs by Eva Peskin are interspersed throughout the performance, and the cast finds their primal scream as easily as they find a light operatic lilt or an atonal choral sequence. Thunder sometimes rumbles through the dark space, illuminated by what can be perceived as search lights. Using the top of a water cooler as a percussion instrument is clever.


Nikki Calonge and other members of ANIMALS, Michael De Angelis and Mike Mikos work with their designers to create surprise in an overall stage picture that brings new meaning to shabby chic. Blue wrap of the chairs, set in the audience, prepare the spectators for everything, including paint to be thrown at them. The paint is used instead on a removable wall designed by Blake Palmer. White doves are painted on it. Costume Design by Bobby Andres is fantastically original and includes wonderful eccentricities like caterpillar-like coats and paper clip necklaces.


Though it’s a bit of a stretch to directly tie-in each moment of the play to world of corporate banking, we find that values are in question throughout the play. Systems of values rely on agreement. The performers huddle together not only for survival, but also for sustenance. As they ask you to: “Recognize People and Want Things Differently,” it is not exactly a prayer, but a call to action. These performers (extraordinarily raised in social protest theater) never forget theme, as they serve up their tension and drama with a twinge of sadness.


CHASE: What Mattered Most? played for eight performances until October 31st at Dixon Place, located at 161A Chrystie