I went to the Mitzi E. Newhouse for Contact, Susan Stroman’s collaboration with the playwright John Weidman, to see Stroman, the current darling of musical theater, choreographing on her home turf. Within recent memory, two unlikely (and unlike) hosts had commissioned her services. The pieces she created for the New York City Ballet and the Martha Graham Dance Company were bright, clever, superficial, and of course utter anomalies in the essentially highbrow repertoires they joined.
Stroman’s work in Contact is bright, clever, superficial, and overambitious in the Emotional Significance department. It’s also way overextended in time, its content sufficient for no more than a skit. The show, in which words are kept to a minimum, comprises three takes on erotic fantasy: a raunchy extension of the celebrated Fragonard painting of lovers and a swing, which becomes a tour de force of coitus in transit; the Walter Mitty-ish dream life of a much put-upon hausfrau of the fifties; and the ostensibly contemporary saga of a successful, suicidal advertising exec who’s saved by the dream girl he discovers in a lowdown club. The last segment is the excuse for long stretches of swing dancing that’s been showbizzed to a high gloss. I believe we are meant to be entertained.