Fringe Review: ‘Dreams in the Arms of the Binding Lady’

The Blob-man and his blob-baby. Photo courtesy of Izumi Ashizawa Performance Company.

Why does one go to the theatre? To be entertained by the silliness of life’s follies? To anguish over the choices of society’s heroes? Or does one go to the theatre to admire the exquisiteness of the human form? Or the beauty of the voice when in harmony? Or does one go to the theatre to ponder the imponderable, the mystery that best inhabits our unconscious mind and that only emerges in dream state? If that’s the reason you go to the theatre, then Dreams in the Arms of the Binding Lady is for you. Some of Simos Papanas’s music will haunt you; some of performers’ images will lie with you later while you sleep; some of the show’s Noh possibilities might even summon you to take a second look at that spider you see weaving its web outside your apartment window this morning; but in no way will this Binding Lady leave you lackluster and disinterested in the elusiveness of twilight and the ideations it produces.

Several moments linger the longest: the hands of the spider tip-toeing on a delicate web, the unwrapping of the geisha’s silken illusion, the march of the stomping torsos, the preeminence of the glob man and his baby glob. If you can only image what these memorable moments might look like, that’s the point. These dreams are inexplicable.

…a unique and tantalizing spectacle of collective hallucination.

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Unfortunately, however, unlike most memorable dreams this one has a few flaws. Dreams are all about the transitions, the liquid flow from one state of being to the next: Binding Lady has too many lengthy pauses that interrupt the liquidity, pulling its audience out of the wonder it produces and leaving it sitting in a theater on 14th Street. Dreams are all about the symbolism, not the representation: Binding Lady has several costume choices that fail to elevate the imagination. Finally, dreams are all about the transport, the journey and where they take us: Binding Lady offers its audience many moments of wonder, but the journey that it travels does not reverberate enough to take us all the way to its destination.

Dreams in the Arms of the Binding Lady is the creation of the Izumi Ashizawa Performance Company. The performance text was created by Izumi Ashizawa and features Nick Horan as the man whose dreams of seduction torment him. Izumi Ashizawa, Raechel Nolan, Vanessa Nolan, Claudia Rosales, and Vanessa Taylor embody the various creatures, visions, spiders, and people who do the tormenting, pursuing the man into his deepest siestas not only to destroy him but also to transform him. Although not for everyone, and although it has its weaknesses, Dreams in the Arms of the Binding Lady does offer the dreamer in all of us a unique and tantalizing spectacle of collective hallucination. Carl Jung would be proud. The archetypes have received their due respect and the destructive anima given its just rewards.

Running time: 45 minutes.

Dreams in the Arms of the Binding Lady plays at the Studio Theatre – Milton Theatre, July 14 @ 1:00, July 15 @ 12:00 and 6:30. For ticket information, click here.

About Robert Michael Oliver

An educator, playwright, theatre artist, and poet, Robert Michael Oliver has lived an eclectic life since moving to Washington 30 years ago after earning his MFA in Directing from Virginia Tech. Co-founder of DC’s Sanctuary Theatre, Michael served as its artistic director through the early 1990s. He then worked at The New School of Northern Virginia as High School Director and Director of its theatre program. Now, with both his children independent, young adults, and after earning his doctorate in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland in 2005, he has recommitted himself to the arts. In 2010 he began the Sanctuary’s Performing Knowledge Project. Its one-man show, “Embodying Poe: Poetry in Performance,” which Michael wrote and performed, premiered at the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival. A long time participant in Washington’s theatre scene, he was delighted to be the Editor, DC Metro area for the Maryland Theatre Guide for a few years.