I have a confession. I can’t count the times when, listening to a song with a pumping beat and trying to stay awake through those last 100 lines of Latin, I have just wanted to get up, flail my arms around and dance. Let’s not lie, I do this all the time. It’s obviously one of the best parts of having a single. Unfortunately, I can’t dance.
But the cast of the Yale Cabaret’s “Clutch Yr Amplified Heart Tightly and Pretend” can really shake it. With a sense of looseness and freedom it would take countless hours of yoga to achieve, the seven men and two women in the show bounced and shimmied energetically enough to enliven my mind, deadened as it was by midterms and housing and all sorts of “yalegrlproblems.”
“Amplified Heart” explores the full range of emotions surrounding that most discussed and least understood of subjects: love. Beginning and ending with powerful monologues on subjects ranging from love’s ability to be defined to any and all underlying existential angst, the majority of the show was composed of short dance (and other movement) sequences set to an inspiring soundtrack of easily recognizable indie pop hits with escapable names.
The show’s specific plot is indescribable. Rather, the hybrid effect of lighting changes, movement, vocal tone, and music creates a set of images and feelings in the viewer’s mind. I could say how I felt at every moment, but I know that these feelings would apply only to me, since every scene surely evokes some memory of romantic experience in each individual. At times I felt warm and carefree, as if I were running on a beach. At others, the cold, dark atmosphere of the Cabaret faded to the warm and fuzzy feeling of cuddling in my bed. The lack of specific characters normally would have irked me, but in “Amplified Heart,” it was refreshingly universalizing.
Such intangibles are not overwhelming in the context of the cast’s light tone and willingness to make fun of themselves. One memorable scene follows a couple through their day as a third actor creates a range of sound effects from a corner. The ventriloquism is flawless and the noises range from cartoon-like squeaks to dead-on animal impressions. Not a single member of the cast or audience shied away from a smile during one of the many carefree dance sequences.
Yet this sense of humor does not detract from the show’s ultimate introspection. The many light scenes are tempered by moments of hurt and relationship carnage. One dance routine, in which the majority of the cast donned masks made of colored, transparent material, ended in the seeming automation of the group. One actor was left out. Happiness quickly turned to lack, tranquility to frustration, as the lone sheep grew more and more paranoid about his isolation. The eventual flight of the cast out of the Cabaret recalled the undeniable and universal pain of a break-up.
When combined with the show’s overall aesthetic, the wounds are quickly bandaged up and, for the most part, forgotten about. Beautiful symmetries in both the show’s overall structure and each individual scene impart the message that despite heartbreak, the cycle of life and love keeps on. You realize that you may even enjoy the melancholy of too much emotion, you may even benefit from it.
After all they’ve been through, the cast ends up sitting on the floor of the Cabaret with their backs to the audience, connected by their shared experiences — both the happy times and the losses. A group of stars, simulated by shining a light onto a disco ball, flashes in front of them. The speed of their orbits increases with the pace of the music. The interaction of music and the star-speckled darkness invoked the simultaneously collective, yet deeply personal experience of an outdoor concert on a warm summer’s evening. I can still acutely remember being blown away by the magic of such an occasion and the sheer size of the spectacle. Somehow, being in the tiny cabaret with just nine actors and a few members of the crew made me feel the same way.