Bob Boilen's "Music for Unitards," performed at the Washington Project for the Arts Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, confronted onlookers with a disconcerting melange of stage, screen and sound techniques.
Performers were carried on stage by a silent figure in a white body suit--a latter-day relative of the leotard, the "unitard," which gave the show its title. While Boilen created pulsating, vaguely ecclesiastical figures on synthesizer, members of Baltimore's Impossible Theatre troupe undulated before a backdrop of projected slide images, executing a sort of slow-motion Star Wars leap-frogging.
Suddenly, a thick mesh net was lowered in front of them, catching enough light to produce a double image as well as breaking the backdrop into a shattered mosaic. When a film projector kicked into action the combined visuals were intoxicating.
During this time not a word was uttered from the stage; the only voices were disembodied, solemnly intoning snatches of surreal poetry from the sidelines until Aero Phone's Susan Mumford appeared. Along with Rogelio Maxwell on cello, Jim Sivard on sax, Michael Barron playing bass and percussionist Robert Mann, she joined Boilen in conjuring a modal, atmospheric sound. The lineup fluctuated throughout the program. At first only Sivard and Maxwell accompanied Boilen, striking a jazzy note. Later, Mann and Sivard locked into a rhythmic synthesizer pulse manufacturing a more African tone. It was an ambitious and often quite successful venture that should be repeated soon.