|The Clay Duke cast; photo courtesy On The Boards
Dayna Hanson's new performance piece, "The Clay Duke," at On The Boards December 5-8, 2013, was that kind of experience for me. So many lovely shards, so many moments of exquisite beauty or humor: the doppelganger Clay Dukes: Wade Madsen and Thomas Graves, with their top-knotted hair and curled mustaches; Madsen slithering demonically in snakeskin patterned pants and a glittering shirt as he methodically broke the necks of his fellow cast members; Peggy Piacenza carefully unpacking and cataloging the contents of her furry handbag. Alas, these fragments never coalesced in a coherent whole.
Mostly what shone in "The Clay Duke" was the divine Sarah Rudinoff. Even in drag as a Florida school board president, Rudinoff mesmerized every time she took center stage. She rattled out her words like bullets from a rapid fire semi-automatic gun,skittered across the floor pantless in a fox mask, supplicant paws bent in front of her white button-down shirt. These moments, and more from Rudinoff, were like beautiful, unstrung beads on a jeweler's work bench. How I longed to see them as part of a finished necklace!
After the show, somebody in the lobby remarked how she'd loved the humor, and how "The Clay Duke" made her miss Hanson's late company 33 Fainting Spells. In fact, just across the lobby, a video monitor played a looped tape of some of that company's early performances. The tape served as a reminder that choreography is one of Hanson's biggest strengths. The snippets of dance in "The Clay Duke" resonated. They left me wanting more movement, fewer words, in this piece. Which is an ironic admission from somebody who makes her living talking and writing.
Ultimately, "The Clay Duke" felt like a messy head of hair in need of a firm brushing, and perhaps the attention of a sharp pair of scissors. Or, as I freely admit, it could be that I simply lack the genetic predisposition to discern the beautiful whole that lurked in that mass of wild curls.