Through Feb. 23
The Pinhook, Durham
Though it exhibits considerable promise, Horses, Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern’s current offering that concludes its Triangle-wide walkabout with this week’s shows in Durham, feels a lot more like a prototype than a finished product. As a rock show, Dana Marks’ new performance piece with a live band persuades more often than not, mixing some gritty and convincing new songs with carefully curated covers, including Nick Cave’s “Loverman” and PJ Harvey’s “Kamikaze.” But as “a play with music,” as it’s billed, Horses falls short of the mark.
Outside of the songs, the only character development afforded Marks’ alter ego, central figure DeeDee Marx, comes during five unscripted, improvised interviews putatively conducted during the singer’s world tour. Those brief, haphazard conversations introduced moments of wit Saturday night at Gibson Girl Vintage: Jeff Alguire amused as a snarky music critic from the Seattle alternative paper The Stranger, Shuyi Alice Wang embodied the bubbly cluelessness of a website content provider, and Sharon Eisner plumbed the manipulative gravitas of a reporter from the Israeli newspaper Al Haaretz.
These conversations, though, shed precious little light on a supposedly iconic woman of music, and a good part of the lingering fog around the character came from Marks’ own responses. Would an artist as uncompromising as Marks has described DeeDee consistently evade all commentary on the political, sexual, and gender implications of her own work, before stating that she doesn’t write protest songs?
The strongest sign that Horses merits further development comes from Marks’ original songs that gave the evening its highest points. Under William Dawson’s tight musical direction the opener, “So Long Sister,” proved a raging punk memorial to a dead comrade, before the smart-ass comeuppance of “Poseidon in the City.” I wanted to hear further excavations from the elegiac muse in “Fill the Lungs Up with Water,” which followed an astringent reading of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”
On the whole, I’d say Marks has only scratched the surface of her latest persona. Still, what’s revealed in those scratches does make me want to see more.