Christopher d'Amboise—writer, director and choreographer of South Coast Repertory's world premiere of The Studio (A Play With Dance)—provides a clever case for theater critics to make nice with his brilliantly conceived production. As his tortured character Emil explains, "When a step is right, you cannot describe it—all you can say is . . . 'Ahhhh.'" Which means what, exactly? I see what he's up to—d'Amboise—but letting his characters off with an "Ahhhh" is the easy way out—especially in response to a play as rich and visionary as The Studio.
A behind-the-mirrored-walls look at the New York dance world, The Studio has been in development on both coasts since its postponed 2004 SCR debut. It is the story of legendary though frustrated choreographer Emil (Terrence Mann) and the two dancers he has chosen to use to develop his new ballet—veteran dancer Jackie (John Todd), who knows Emil's megalomaniacal ways, and self-conscious newcomer Lisa (Nancy Lemenager), who needs Jackie's support on and off the studio dance floor.
Boldly and seamlessly integrating the arts of dance, drama, music and even visual art, The Studio seems to be an example of what can be accomplished if all these disciplines just get along. D'Amboise even supplies a usable tag line—via Emil, who says, "Everything is possible in the studio." Only one thing stands in the way of The Studio fully realizing its potential—the shallow moments in Todd and Lemenager's acting performances.
This being said, The Studio still manages to successfully convey what it means for artists—"servants of the possible"—to continue creating meaningful art in the shadow of the past.
THE STUDIO AT SOUTH COAST REPERTORY, 655 TOWN CENTER DR., COSTA MESA, (714) 708-5555. TUES., 7:30 P.M.; WED.-FRI., 8 P.M.; SAT., 2:30 & 8 P.M.; SUN., 2:30 & 7:30 P.M. THROUGH MAY 7. $20-$58; UNDER 25, STUDENT, TEACHER, SENIOR & GROUP DISCOUNTS AVAILABLE.