A few weeks before the world premiere of Everything Is Imaginable, New York City treasure Jack Ferver tore his calf while preparing a piece for Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung at the Guggenheim. But leave it to the Wisconsin-born actor, writer, dancer, choreographer, teacher, and director to incorporate the injury into the narrative of the two-act, seventy-minute show. As the audience enters the theater at New York Live Arts, the curtain is down, a rarity at the venue, upping the growing sense of anticipation that accompanies every Ferver work. The curtain soon opens on Jeremy Jacob’s playful set, consisting of four white cardboard columns with drawings of leaves on them, along with a central cardboard chandelier hovering at the top of a screen in the back. It immediately immerses the crowd into the wonders of Ferver’s imagination while exposing the artifice behind staged productions in general. The first act features four queer men in sheer, butt-revealing outfits dancing solos inspired by their childhood memories and one major role model: American Ballet Theater principal James Whiteside, in a short, glittering dress of silver sequins, pays tribute to Judy Garland, dancing to Garland’s version of Cole Porter’s “I Happen to Like New York”; Martha Graham principal dancer Lloyd Knight honors Graham, moving to a recording of the legendary choreographer speaking about dance; dancer and actor Garen Scribner slides across the stage in socks and does spins like his hero, champion skater Brian Boitano, to the sound of ice skates being sharpened and gliding across the ice; and longtime Ferver collaborator Bartelme, a former ballet dancer and current costume designer (as part of Reid and Harriet Design, who made the costumes for the show), wears a long orange mane and dances with horse movements, since his idol is My Little Pony. Each solo combines humor with beautiful movement, taking advantage of each dancer’s strengths while adding the charm and whimsy that are mainstays of Ferver’s choreography. The four star turns are followed by a solo about sunglasses and then an ensemble piece danced to “club music,” including a Martha Graham–esque sexualized orgy that is uproariously funny.
After a ten-minute intermission (with the curtains closed), the second act begins with Ferver (Chambre, Night Light Bright Light) by himself onstage, standing over a miniature version of the set from the first act, evoking Stonehenge from This Is Spinal Tap. In a sheer bodysuit recalling Michelle Pfeiffer’s garb as Catwoman in Batman Returns, the compact Ferver towers over the tiny columns and chandelier, emphasizing his power as a creator while also poking fun at it. Ferver talks about his calf injury, explaining how that limited his ability to dance — his doctor advised him not to move forward, which is not part of his vocabulary, literally or figuratively — and forced him to reimagine the work, and discusses his difficult childhood, friendless and bullied for his overt homosexuality; growing up gay is a regular theme in his oeuvre. As always, his stage persona is that of a devilish cherub, wild and wacky one moment, making the audience roll around their seats with laughter, and then deadly serious the next, raising disturbing elements from his life that may or may not be true, causing everyone to reconsider their reactions. He’s joined by Bartelme, who looks lovely in a fringe dress, and the two dance together to heartbreaking effect while Ferver, soldiering on despite his injury, goes on to describe his process of writing a memoir, which took place alone, terrified, in a strange house, in the dark. Ferver is no longer friendless or alone, as evidenced not only by the crowd response to the supremely personal show but by the long line of well-wishers who waited to hug and congratulate him for giving them yet another unique, meaningful, and vastly entertaining experience, shining a light on his life, and ours, as only he can.