Ralph Lemon
  • Photo by Frank Oudeman
  • Ralph Lemon

Ralph Lemon: How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?
Duke Performances
Reynolds Industries Theater
Nov. 6

“We had a lot more walk-outs last night than usual,” said lighting director and production manager Christopher Kuhl prior to the Saturday night performance of New York-based choreographer Ralph Lemon’s How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? “Ralph is interested in it. He likes to track when people leave, when they start texting.”

The evening began whimsically enough with a video piece featuring 102-year old Walter Carter—Lemon’s muse and mentor, now deceased—wearing a silver spacesuit. Seated beneath and to the left of a large screen, Lemon spoke generously and openly; giving us full, intimate view of his intellectual inner workings, creative impulses and personal losses.

  • Photo by Ralph Lemon

The video screen sailed away and Lemon’s chair and mic were removed, opening a view to the completely bare stage. One figure sauntered out into the void. Thus commenced the choreographic meat of the How Can You Stay, a 20-minute, exquisitely wrought chaos of flailing, falling, pushing and enduring that Lemon and the six dancers call “the wall.” Bare once more, the stage gaped at us while the sound of weeping echoed from the walls. Slowly, performer Okwui Okpokwasili edged out into the dim light, her back to us, shoulders heaving with emotion.

From about midway through “the wall” and throughout the performance, dark silhouettes began to rise from seats in the audience and scurry up the aisles to the exits. Singly, in couples or small groups, souls simply got up and left the theater. These shadowy rustlings and quiet disruptions temporarily backgrounded the stage action, yet they were eerily in harmony with the strong currents of grief and dissolution that propelled it.

It takes a measure of depth and strength to deal with the radically disorganizing principles that Lemon harnessed for How Can You Stay, and, well, not everyone could hang. Too bad, because those who bailed early missed Jim Findlay’s magical animals: Silvery projections of creatures and birds that wandered silently on to the stage, waited patiently with us for a while, and then stepped quietly back into their invisible homes.