Take a phrase. Roll it gently off the tongue. Grab it quickly. Then twist the words into dense, jagged images that spiral around a swirling saxophone and electric guitar. The results might be similar to the intriguing mix of poetry, music and theater that Ntozake Shange, Oliver Lake and Michael Gregory Jackson presented last night at d.c. space.
Shange, the author of "for Colored Girls Who Have Contemplated Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf," recited several poetic monologues that were augmented and accented by the improvisation of Lake on sax and flute, and Jackson on an electronically altered guitar.
The poems, which were delivered in the declamatory style of the play, were biting in their wit and cynicism. At times, Shange would stutter a phrase, rhythmically, or pause, as the music unfolded before her. Lake and Jackson delicately picked her words and thoughts apart, dissecting their meanings and adding new ideas of their own.
Occasionally (as with many improvised projects) a section was carried a bit long, while at others, the performers tended to lose control and stumble against one another. When the pieces worked, however, they were filled with the sense of nervous anticipation and unroarious surprise that more than compensated for the duller moments.