L-E-V: OCD Love
Tuesday, July 3
Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham

Program notes can be a lifesaver. The short text explaining a show’s inspiration or meaning often serves as a map lighting up an otherwise inscrutable performance.

Sometimes, though, they lead to a dead end. That’s how I felt watching OCD Love, a work by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s company L-E-V. The program notes explained that the show is about lovers failing to connect, but that’s not what I saw. Not even close.

Rather, OCD Love appears to be about five people at a club, gyrating to techno music and checking each other out. The piece opens with one woman moving slowly, slinkily, with spider legs and tortured joints. She’s not necessarily looking for anything, but when a man shows up, they circle each other warily and then part. Later, another woman comes onto the scene and they, too, check each other out, this time with a little more emotional connection; they tease and play, egging each other on.

From the start, the piece has a dark, underworld quality to it: we’re watching a sex club, maybe, or an S&M gathering, where participants in black manipulate one another and are aroused by inflicting psychological or physical pain.

The women in the show feel consistently a little more human than the men; gorgeous dancers though they are, there’s something empty about the guys. They’re constantly preening and voguing with an ironic, sardonic air and little genuine feeling. One in particular looks like a gargoyle, small and grotesquely menacing, frequently rubbing his belly and crotch.

Just before the piece ends, there’s a shift in tone. Suddenly, the dancers begin to move with clear, spacious lines, and the mood becomes somber, almost funereal. But that ends with a bang, and then we’re back to the club, where the original woman is being lifted, treated like a puppet, and taken advantage of. But she doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, she’s going along with it.

And that’s how the show ends, with the woman on the verge of hurting herself—and wanting it. It’s a very bleak world, not about love in any way.