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Casey reviews PUSH Physical Theatre 

PUSH Physical Theatre, the brainchild of artistic directors and founders Darren and Heather Stevenson, has a satisfying repertoire built from the local company's 16 years in existence, but it's always exciting to see a new piece. The Fringe audience Saturday night at the School of the Arts' main stage was shown the world premiere of "0's and 1's," a work still in progress.

Darren prefaced the performance of the piece with a brief talk about national and political identity in the world. "I just feel like maybe, if we could do a few more silly things ... and a little less hating and shooting ..." he said.

Light and the absence of light contribute greatly to an aura of menace that imbues most of this piece. Performers wear portable video projectors and flashlights, which initially, spookily illuminate their faces and leotard-clad bodies; by the end, scattered colored light from the projectors ushers in a lighter mood -- hope, perhaps peace.

The piece has a high-tech, calculated feel, but at the same time, a primitive, elemental side. For much of it, the performers are enmeshed together or alone in large pieces of a shiny, stretchy fabric. Bodies struggle inside. Black fabric covers faces. Then hands and feet protrude. Eventually, the fabric is discarded, the movement becomes more upward bound, and the music is more optimistic.

PUSH excels in deeply layered work that grows richer in meaning with repeated viewings. This is one such piece. I look forward to seeing it again to gain further insight into its message.

The company is, however, equally adept at conveying humor and lightness through movement. Saturday night's program was balanced between dark and light. "Parenthood," for example, a hysterical take on beleaguered parenting, had the audience chuckling as the Stevensons mimed an exhausted couple woken repeatedly to attend their young children. The genius of the company's physical comedy is readily apparent as the two take turns shuffling off to burp and change the babies -- all made clear without any props, only movement and facial expression.

The other two pieces performed Saturday -- "Job" and "The Soldier" -- are both hard-hitting. "Job" takes its name from the biblical character and delivers a powerful rendition of his anguish. The action centers on an immense metal ring that the performers clamber in and out of as they fight their way to some kind of freedom. AviPryntz-Nadworny demonstrates his prowess with this apparatus (he has performed with Cirque de Soleil) as the title character trying to master his demons.

"The Soldier" features Darren progressing from a boy at play to a soldier in battle. His expressions during his slow motion war scenes are, alone, worth attending the show. He fires his gun and his face contorts in agony and disbelief. Then, it appears he is hit. Red light floods the stage floor. He staggers, his body flaying, he falls, contorts, stills, and then the stage goes black.

PUSH Physical Theatre will perform again Friday, September 23, 7 p.m., and Saturday, September 24, 8 p.m., at RAPA @ SOTA: Allen Main Stage. $18. Appropriate for all ages.

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