Elizabeth Swados Offers A Morality Play in Music, Rap, and Dance

THEATER REVIEW

The Red Sneaks. Musical based on the story of ``The Red Shoes,'' written, directed, and composed by Elizabeth Swados. At the Perry Street Theatre. `THE Red Sneaks'' transplants the story of the film ``The Red Shoes'' from the cosmopolitan world of classical ballet to the ominous, brick-walled environs of New York City. With improvisational contributions from the eight members of her young company, Elizabeth Swados has devised a parable about the fatal consequences of addiction, illusion, and the heedless hunger for self-realization.

Dedre (Dedre Guevara), a lonely, motherless ghetto child, succumbs to the blandishments of Shawn (Shawn Benjamin), a jiving, big-city Mephistopholes. Shawn offers Dedre unbounded success and liberation if she will accept ``One Rare Pair of Sneakers.''

Dazzled by the red-spangled footwear, Dedre rises from the detritus of her miserable life and begins an illusory journey to success and happiness.

The 85-minute morality tale unfolds in a series of musical numbers, rap songs (by cast members), and casually choreographed dances. Composer Swados's song titles suggest the nature of the unfoldment: ``Sad and Lonely Child,'' ``Don't Come Inside My Head,'' ``You Don't Have to Do This,'' ``The Action Never Stops,'' and ``Sneaker Prison.'' There are tender tunes such as ``I Like How We Dance Together'' and a poignant moment of self-recognition, ``I Want to Be Free From This Dream'' (``I want to start from the beginning...'').

Ms. Swados and her youthful collaborators manage to express their moral concerns in terms of thoroughly zestful entertainment. With the writer-composer's encouraging direction, the eight cast members fill the small stage with enough energy to expand the walls of scenery and costume designer G.W. Mercier's red brick-walled setting. M.L. Geiger's lighting suits the tale's fleeting moods.

The members of the interracial ensemble are James Sheffield-Dewees, Kenny Lund, Raquel Richard, Valerie Evering, Donald ``Shun'' Faison, and Teresina Sullo. The supportive accompaniment by Paul O'Keefe (synthesizer) and Lewis Robinson (percussion) meets the varying and sometimes explosive demands of the Swados score. The production is being presented by the venturesome Theatre for a New Audience.

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