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NoExit presents a provocative update of a classic ballet

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"Swan Lake"

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There is no question that director & choreographer Tommy Lewey has created something very special and if you are fortunate enough, you can still get tickets to his edgy adaptation of NoExit Performance''s starkly beautiful “Swan Lake,” which is being presented at the Wheeler Arts Center in Fountain Square. The show’s last two performances are Friday, June 20 and Saturday, June 21. Examiner.com attended a recent Sunday matinee.

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Lewey’s version of “Swan Lake” combines dance with text to create a theatrical experience which is among the most creative seen yet this season. Making Tchaikovsky’s old ballet chestnut more relevant, Lewey has changed the story, with text written by Leah Falk, to also make it more contemporary. In his version the Prince falls in love with a swan played by a man. The fact that he is in love with a bird of course does not sit well with his community, a rigid puritanical religious sect of which he and his doting but strict parents are members.

In the traditional version there is an emphasis on magic which partly drives the plot but this interpretation, as stated in the program notes, seeks “to present a frank piece of live dance-theatre that takes a long look at human behavior in matters of the heart.” By casting the swan as a man in his piece, Lewey makes an obvious allusion to same-sex and other forbidden relationships that spark condemnation, on religious or social grounds, from those who are threatened by them and in turn, react with persecution and even violence.

The casting for Lewey’s riveting ninety-minute work was, indeed, impeccable, with each and every member of the ten member company deserving of plaudits.

Standing out, however, was dancer extraordinaire David Lovett, who was awe-inspiring as the Swan. Showing both strength and delicacy through Lewey’s inspired choreography, he was uncanny in his replication of the graceful movement of the regal aquatic bird he represented. Lovett also conveyed deep emotion, showing considerable dramatic talent in a scene during which the bird is invited by the Prince to dine with the community, and another during which his character is tied to an upended bench, crucifixion-style, by those seeking to murder him.

Robert Negron, formerly of San Diego and making his Indy acting debut, was also outstanding in his portrayal of the impassioned Prince determined to risk everything to maintain his relationship with the Swan, who he loves and protects without reservation. Negron is one to watch if he decides to pursue further local acting opportunities.

Lovett and Negron’s disciplined partnering, occurring during scenes in which their characters fiercely struggle and later when they engage in intimacy, also reflected the genius of Lewey’s striking choreography.

Beverly Roche and Bill Wilkison are exemplary actors who both turned out very potent performances as the Prince’s judgmental mother and father, who go to any lengths to protect their son from what they consider a heinous relationship which they can neither condone nor accept.

Rounding out the solid performances of those in primary roles was Georgeanna Smith. She played Friend, the Prince’s loyal confidante since childhood, willing to do anything for him except kill that which most threatens her and others.

The oblong black box theater of the Wheeler Arts Center which served as the space for “Swan Lake” was an ideal venue for the novel production that showcased Abigail Copeland’s set design, Donald Stikeleather’s lighting design and Michael Burke’s costume design, all of it imaginative and striking .

Also contributing to the production’s impressive production elements was Lewey’s dynamic sound design which consisted of music from some of Tchaikovsky’s original “Swan Lake” score, and that of composers Gavin Bryars, David Lang, Nico Muhly, Zbigniew Preisner, Active Child and a group called The Irrepressibles.

Through Lewey’s “Swan Lake,” NoExit Performance successfully met part of its mission to “push the bounds of creativity” and “present work that forgoes convention” and once again demonstrated its fast rise as a major player on the Indy performing arts landscape.

For information about the remainder of NoExit Performance’s current season and its 2014-2015 schedule, visit www.noexitperformance.org.

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