Play:    Primal

Group:    Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Venue:    The Chapel, 201 South Skinker Blvd.

Dates:    October 16, 17, 18

Tickets:    Suggested donation of $15; contact 314-835-7415

Story:    The story of Primal is also the story of this experimental troupe.  The 12 members of the Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble (also coyly termed SATE-ists) assembled for this 60-minute presentation, in the words of SATE comprise “artists from varying disciplines devoted to continuous weekly training as an ensemble using Suzuki and Viewpoints actor training techniques, and the exploration of words, movement and sound.”

    SATE member Pamela Reckamp devised Primal to coordinate several basic human urges, such as hunger, survival, sex, violence, fear, sleep, touch and expression, to align with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Usually depicted as a pyramid, Maslow’s analysis includes four levels of physiological needs and a top level associated with psychological desires.  In Primal, the players act out these essentials with precisely choreographed bits of theater and dance.

Highlights:    It all sounds highly esoteric, and it probably is, but the troupe’s exercise is absorbing and infused with a certain infectious energy.  Most appealing is the use of various types of music, including Ravel’s famous instrumental piece, Bolero, and a beautifully sung a cappella version of Paul Simon’s America, that set the musical stage for some touching pantomime moments.

Other Info:    Additionally, the raucous music of George Michael (I Want Your Sex) or the pulsating notes of Balance of Power (Shelter Me) provide appropriate background for skits focused on sex and shelter, respectively.  And a piece about fear uses lighting in the spacious performance space of The Chapel most adroitly.

    While some of the pieces seem trite…a walking-in-circles bit grows wearisome, and a skit focused on “favorite colors” seems forced and fades quickly…many of the numbers are clever and interestingly conveyed.  Kudos are heartily deserved for the hard-working and talented cast, which includes Sarajane Alverson, Audrey Martin, Kimberly Mason, Elizabeth Pajares, Michael Perkins, Emily Piro, Ellie Schwetye, Margeau Baue Steinau, Dianna Thomas, Rachel Tibbetts, Kirsten Wylder and Reckamp.

Rating:    A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.