This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Abrons Arts Center Playhouse
466 Grand St. at Pitt St.
Sunday, January 18, $20, 7:00

In 1964, dancer, actor, and choreographer Fred Herko, a native New Yorker, took a bath at a friend’s house, then danced naked right out the window, committing suicide at the age of twenty-eight. A half century later, dancer, actor, and choreographer Jack Ferver, born in Wisconsin fifteen years after Herko’s death, uses Herko’s story to examine his own life, which includes battling depression and suicidal thoughts. The bare-bones show, which premiered this past week at the Abrons Arts Center Playhouse as part of the American Realness festival, begins with Ferver prancing around an empty stage while glancing at himself, and the audience, through an oval mirror in his hands, immediately announcing that while Night Light Bright Light might ostensibly be a tribute to Herko, it is very much about Ferver. In such previous works as Two Alike, Rumble Ghost, and All of a Sudden, Ferver has employed pop-culture references, awkward and inventive movement, experimental music, and public confession with a bold intimacy that makes his devoted audiences burst out in laughter as well as squirm uncomfortably in their seats — often at the same time — and that’s very much the case with this latest piece. Joined by friend and costume designer Reid Bartelme, who displays a fine balletic grace and wry sense of humor, Ferver apologizes for Night Light Bright Light being so spare while his previous piece, Chambre, which debuted at Bard in November, was so elegant and fancy; reenacts a memory from his childhood, force-feeding himself imaginary pudding; delves into the nature of therapy and rehab, wondering if they could have helped save Herko; channels Madonna and Blanche DuBois; talks about the surprise suicide of a young costar in a 1999 film; and playfully performs several pas de deux with Bartelme, featuring some very funny choreography. Ferver ends the nearly hour-long show with a video that gets to the heart of what his work is all about, combining extreme highs and devastating lows in riotous yet heartbreaking ways that will have some people in stitches, others praying that it ends quickly. Fortunately, there seems to be no end to Ferver’s unique brand of creativity.

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