Ten years ago ODC/San Francisco developed a danced version of the well-loved children's book, The Velveteen Rabbit. Now choreographers Brenda Way and Kimi Okada have turned their attention to an older audience, creating Outawak, a youth-theater-cum-rock-opera tale of Cosmo, a bored teenager sucked into cyberspace where he reconciles logic with feeling.
Children's theater often falls into the trap of high moralism, reducing life to sharply defined opposites. Outawak makes this mistake--almost--but saves itself by shying light in tone and generous in spirit. This is a big show, with inventive costumes and high energy. And while choreography does not carry the piece, original live music by the Paul Dresher Ensemble mixes idioms and merges them to successfully pull off the production's core idea that divergent elements can be fused to create something more powerful than their individual parts.
Way formed ODC in 1971; many of the works choreographed for this season of New York premieres have an old baby-boomer ethos of group harmony and individual freedom. Though this makes some of her repertory look dated, it is well suited to a work for young audiences. The main characters are outstanding performers with a strong theatrical presence: DJ (Damon White) and Molly XYZ (Heather Tietsort) play resistance leaders in the divided city of Wak, where King (Kevin Ware) rules the logic and numbers-based Numeragua, and Queen (Shannon Mitchell) presides over the emotional realm of Verbia.