‘The Perks’ not perky

“The Perks,” directed by Michael Mcquilken DRA ’11, is supposed to be a lively concert by the Yale Percussion Group, featuring xylophones, drums and a bevy of other percussion instruments. But the show, which premiered last night at the Yale Cabaret, does not quite fulfill the audience’s expectations, quickly devolving into a shrill ruckus.

The concert starts with the death of a young girl who is laid to rest in a wooden casket. Mesmerizing slow motions with dramatic lighting have all the signs of a touching performance. But unfortunately, the marvelously soulful beginning has a disappointingly tragic ending. Soon after the first piece, “The Perks” rapidly loses its drama and debilitates to a melee of comical antics which only occasionally pass as something close to funny.

In the first piece, a composition by Thiery de May, the performers execute the sequence with great gusto. It does not establish a tempo until the very end, which serves to enhance its climax. But as the lively taps and claps of the “table music” performance end, John Corkill MUS ’11 takes over the drums with inexplicable viciousness. Devoid of rhythm, charm or melody, the piece is a cacophonous fusion of discordant jangles and rumbles. After that particular performance, the audience would gladly welcome a shrill fire alarm to rescue them from the repetitive explosion of noise presented in the piece. It is followed by a solo xylophone piece performed by Yun-Chu Chiu MUS ’11, adapted from Paul Lansky’s “Marimba.” Although the music is not conspicuously remarkable, its softer tone comes as a welcome relief from the stark horror of the previous performance. Chiu performs against the backdrop of a homemade video of a child climbing a tree which thrusts dramatic energy in the piece.

By the last composition, when the audience has gotten somewhat used to the shrillness of the drums, “The Perks” manages to regain some of its lost momentum. The entire cast performs a hilarious excerpt from Mauricio Kagel’s composition, “Dressur,” which features a variety of musical instruments performed with comical antics. Jennifer Harrison Newman DRA ’11 gives a magnificent performance as a dancer. She lithely executes the movements, which transform the boisterous composition into a glorious seduction.

If anything, “The Perks” is an olfactory masterpiece. Mcquilkin cleverly exploits the scent of fresh roses mixed with garlic and onion to create a sensational aroma, which adds an exotic flavour to the whole performance.

All in all, the performers of “The Perks” have spunk, imagination and skills to create an engaging concert, but the close confines of Yale Cabaret simply cannot assimilate the high pitches of the percussion instruments. It becomes impossible to appreciate the performers’ enthusiasm when you’re forced to cover your ears for most of the show. What could have been a vibrant tribute to great compositions comes out as grating with little to appreciate except its short length.

Comments

  • gradstudentatyale

    I’ve got to differ with this review: I thought the musical performance was fantastic, and the video, acting, dance, and set design elements added beautiful, fascinating layers to the performance.

    It’s true that the drums are LOUD! This is why the Cabaret handed out earplugs at the door. I do think the show’s announcers were amiss in not reminding the audience to get and wear the earplugs, and the ticket collectors were amiss in often forgetting to offer them. I put mine in for the loud stuff, took ‘em out for the quieter stuff and enjoyed every minute of the show.