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Ward 9 - A New Dance Play

by Marian Horosko
September 26, 2008
Manhattan Movement and Arts Center
248 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023
(212) 787 1178
More dance than play, "Ward 9" by Matt Williams and Gregory Victor set their theatrical work in a psychiatric hospital with twelve characters, all geniuses from various professions and eras. The dance-play does not dwell into the causes for madness or its seemingly useless therapies. During the play's 80 minutes, there are moments of antics cleverly choreographed by Matt Williams, who has worked on Broadway and in a variety of venues. His talent is in assessing how a character would move to exhibit his deviation without becoming morbid or histrionic. Similarities exist in the lives of a genius….early detection of talent, heavy demands for high level performance, lack of early interaction during the formative years…but no theory is offered.

The mad in the hospital were Van Gogh, Beethoven, Bobby Fischer, Sylvia Plath, Nijinski, Vivien Leigh, and Howard Hughes with other dance-players as nurses, orderlies and doctors. Williams has done extensive research into the biographies of the famous inmates and cast the dancer-actors, many of whom are members of Actors' Equity Association or the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, within the bounds of their dance training and experience.

A favorite was Alexander Brady, who studied at the Boston School of Ballet and was a member of the Joffrey and Miami City Ballets and appeared on Broadway, as well. He impersonated Beethoven and flitted about with skill and energy. Travis Magee, who was graduated from the Boston Conservatory, danced Nijinsky with good elevation.

The use of Beethoven's compositions throughout was a bit questionable when other composers could have represented the eras and characteristics of the inmates more accurately and with variety. No credits were given for the musical interpretations.

The production was presented at the new Manhattan Movement and Arts Center at 248 West 60th Street by the New York Musical Theatre Festival that has presented concerts, readings, workshops and seminars for five years. Other shows in the Festival are listed at www.nymf.org.
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