You have to hand it to Mary-Averett Seelye for independence and moxie -- despite the insularity of her art, she pursues it steadfastly, forever a pioneer in a territory few others care to explore. From a background in dance and theater arts, she has fashioned a solo form combining movement with the speaking of poetry (and occasionally prose). At the Marvin Theater last night, authors represented on the program ranged from James Joyce and Gertrude Stein to Ferlinghetti, a fourth-grade New York City school class, a contemporary Lebanese poet and others.
One can, and indeed must, respect Seelye for her courage, intelligence, charm and artistic integrity without being fully persuaded of the success of her endeavors. She declaims the poetry clearly and artfully, and her tall, gangly figure has a natural, quirky expressivity in motion. Yet, though there were passages of sporadic illumination and wit, most of last night's performance missed fire.
The movement appears to be intended as a kind of corporeal "melody," by means of which Seelye transcribes her thoughts and feelings about the text into choreographic form. The difficulty is that the connections between words and motion remain mostly arbitrary and obscure -- in the end the choreography serves more as distraction than enhancement. Perhaps the gulf between the two media is inherently unbridgeable; in any case, historical evidence to the contrary is decidedly scanty.