Mother Nature and Michelin are credited as the source for a few of the props in this sparse, quiet movement piece. Sparse in that there is little more on stage than a light spattering of branches and cloth. Quiet in that the loudest component of the show is the squeaking of the Michelin car tire on the sprung dance floor, as Bee Pallomina rolls along inside it. Granted, every creak and crunch of the rubber-to-floor friction is amplified by a wireless microphone. But sound does play a crucial part in The Understory, whether it is the sporadic, soft-spoken narration, a wintery piano melody, or the crackling of fire.
Much was made in both the program and the pre-show introduction about the importance of making sure prairie audiences get to see prairie artists, and what permeates The Understory is an ever-present sense of place. Johanna Bundon channels the landscape of her Regina roots with a revealing innocence and a reverence for nature. One sequence follows the duo slowly enveloping themselves in fabric, bringing to mind images of origami, camping tents and squirming cocoons in succession. Throughout the piece, Parker Nowlan’s subtle lighting shifts detail the swaying of the seasons, accenting the short tone poem and bringing it to its logical, cyclical end.
Richard Lam is an arts administrator at EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts and is generally enthused about many things. Twitter: @richardllam