Upholding its reputation as one of the ablest and liveliest troupes of our area, the Maryland Dance Theater offered a consummately balanced program this past weekend for its annual spring appearance at Tawes Theater. As a statewide, touring repertory ensemble, the company takes part of its mission to be the cultivation of a broad choreographic spectrum from the past and present. Included in this weekend's fare were works by three generations of modern dance notables -- Doris Humphrey, Murray Louis and Lar Lubovitch -- as well as new indigenous creations by the troupe's artistic director, Larry Warren, and one of its most magnetic performers, Alvin Mayes.
In Humphrey's rarely seen "Night Spell" (1951), reconstructed for MDT by Ray Cook from a Labanotation score, a Sleeper is confronted by a trio of Night Figures, specters of angst and passion who are projections of his own disturbed imagination. The patent psychologism of the piece gives it somewhat dated air, and the construction isn't as tight as in Humphrey's best work.
Still, the flow of hallucinatory imagery makes the revival well worthwhile. The impact, however, depends heavily upon a charismatic intensity in performance that Saturday night's cast only fitfully approached; a more ghostly, sinister lighting scheme would also have helped.
The evening's most refreshing discovery was Warren's "Playlet," an adroitly witty charade involving three about-to-be-wed couples and their prenuptial fears and fantasies. Histrionic antics mesh beautifully with succinct, funny characterizations. The gifts Warren reveals here deserve forceful encouragement.
An engaging duet by John Perpener and Sandra Perez Pollock helped to enliven Murray Louis' clever but overly mechanical "Bach Suites." Spirited dancing was also an asset in Alvin Mayes' "Urchin Stew," though this sprawling, repetitive evocation of children's games is badly in need of editing. Winding up the program was Lar Lubovitch's zany nightmare, "Whirigogs," still a knockout despite a curiously anesthetized performance.