Susan McNeese-Lynch & Mike Slaton in Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.
Photo courtesy Eve Theatre Company.
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks
By Richard Alfieri
Directed by Gilmer McCormick
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks is a play of modest ambitions, which proves to be both its charm and its Achilles’ Heel. The two characters become friends by overcoming friction in a highly schematic story that substitutes familiarity and predictability for innovation.
Michael Minetti (Mike Slaton) arrives at Lily Harrison’s (Susan McNeese-Lynch) upscale condo in St. Petersburg, Florida to give the first dance lesson in a six-week program, but almost immediately the two cross swords and Lily almost cancels the lesson, which would cost Michael his job. Of course she gives him another chance or there would be no play, and these early scenes rely heavily on broadly drawn conflict that seems contrived. The unfolding action is heavily foreshadowed and there are jokes and pieces of business repeated for obvious effect in the first act that weigh the play down. Perhaps putting things in quotation marks in this way increases accessibility to what is, after all, a slight narrative, but it also robs the scenario of spontaneity.
Fortunately, act two breaks from these devices and reveals the deeper truths of these characters, although most of the secrets are fairly unsurprising. Still, there is some reasonable emotional payoff, and the professionalism of the performance goes a long way. The relationship Six Dance Lessons builds is not a romantic one, but a connection formed between two damaged souls despite their misanthropy; a simple and much-needed friendship. So it may seem churlish to complain. I just wish the play found a fresher take on this worthwhile theme.
Susan McNeese-Lynch and Mike Slaton are pros, and well-cast for Lily and Michael; and whatever connection this production makes with the audience owes more to their inestimable work than anything else. They come on a bit strong in the early scenes, but as the friendship deepens, the performances also settle into a subtler level of communication between the two actors.
However much it traffics in narrative cliché and redundancy, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks does become affecting in its final moments, all the more so for not overreaching. There is no overbearing melodrama, just a simple recognition of human need. Gilmer McCormick’s direction follows the dynamic of the text closely, but guides her actors into finer moments that rise above the material.
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks
December 3 -13, 2015
Eve Theatre Company
At Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.