Theater review: ‘Judge Me Paris’

The ensemble is strong, spooky and sensual. This is the last weekend to catch "Judge Me Paris."

Although we all know the trope about those snobby Frenchies, this title’s talking about the literary figure from the Iliad rather than the City of Lights. Either way, it’s equally romantic (if not seductive). This tale revisits the mythology telling how the mortal Paris (Sean Gannon) was selected by Zeus (Jeff Takacs) to judge a beauty contest between three of the loveliest goddesses of the pantheon: Juno (Amber Youell), Athena (Brett Umlauf) or Venus (Brittany Palmer).

More of a theatrical experience than a standard play, this mostly dance piece adds operatic elements to tell the tale. But that stands to reason, considering that Company XIV primarily focuses on dance-oriented works, and then it brings in other elements to complement the art form. For this piece, which features libretto excerpts from “The Judgment of Paris,” the company affiliated with Morningside Opera and SIREN Baroque. The show is directed by founder Austin McCormick, with a tight run time of 75 minutes with no intermission.

Despite the “baroque” epithet, which seems to pertain mainly to the sumptuous costuming and choreography here, modern elements are also utilized. For example, the gods speak to Paris by way of a handheld camera projecting images on the floor, wall and ceilings. The lighting is almost too low throughout, unaided by the consistent use of smoke machines vision obstruction is the last thing you want when you’re trying to watch physical storytelling. But the dancing, singing, orchestration and setting is otherwise spot-on for this work. We would have gone for a little more plot and acting to fully embrace this as theater, or even opera, and the production seems to unfortunately abuse the miscategorization of “burlesque.” But all in all, it was a mesmerizing, high-caliber night of art in a compelling space we’d like to revisit to see how else it can be used or envisioned.

‘Judge Me Paris’
Through May 27
303 Bond St. Theatre, $40
www.companyxiv.com



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