Review “La Raison D’Etre” (Tapman Productions): Opposites Attract

Tapman_LaRaisondEtre-4Tapman Productions presents LA RAISON D’ETRE, A Tapman Repertory Performance. 

Tap is back!  This was my third tap dancing show in 2015.  Each show has had a different story angle; a tap dancing super hero and then a traveling circus.  This time, the show is set in a nightclub.  The owner’s wife steps out on him, or rather dances out on him with the bartender.  Although this premise is fairly pedestrian, the dancing is the real show and it is marveling.

In its latest dance offerings, Tapman Productions is all about melding; drama and comedy, singing and dancing, tap and modern.  In the only speaking role, Javier Villamil (Maitrd’d) narrates the happenings.  He sets up the scenes by telling us the backstory on his boss and his boss’ wife (performed by Tristan Bruns and Kate O’Hanlon). The smooth-talking Villamil is a charismatic storyteller that taps and croons depending on the situation. 

Bruns and O’Hanlon lead the dancing in opposite genres.  Bruns effortlessly and vigorously taps out his pleasure and unhappiness with his dancing wait staff and patrons.  Bruns establishes a romantic tone by serenading O’Hanlon by electrically strumming “The way you look tonight.”  Despite her hubby’s sentimentality, O’Hanlon strays.  She wants  a more modern, barefoot man.  O’Hanlon and Mike Ford shed their shoes to dance.  Although all the dancing is impressively athletic, the modern movements have an earthy and sensual physicality.  They do this erotic number with a ball that is just titillating. 

Having both forms of dance evenly featured makes it twice the show.  I was especially amazed at the two types performed simultaneously.  The look is definitely unique.  Plus, I couldn’t stop worrying about the energetic peppy hoofers in such close proximity to their barefooted contemporary counterparts.             

LA RAISON D’ETRE has a old-fashioned clubby feel.  It reminded me of the showbiz movies of the 30s where Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire or Danny Kaye are dancing and singing at a nightclub and in their ‘real‘ life.  The performers‘ conflicts onstage and offstage is frothy and lighthearted.  Because the story is predictable, it has an amicability that spotlights the dancing.  I’d love to see this show in a dimly-lit cabaret setting for an even more nostalgic experience.       

Running Time:  An hour and thirty minute includes an intermission

At Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport

Choreographed by Tristan Bruns, Megan Davis, Mike Ford, Kate O’Hanlon, Javier Villamil

Directed by Mike Stults

Fridays at 7:30pm

Saturdays at 2pm and 7:30pm

Sundays at 2pm

Thru June 7th

Buy Tickets at www.athenaeumtheatre.org

Photo by Michael Courier

For more reviews and information on Chicago theatre, visit Theatre in Chicago.

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