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NY Theater Reviews

Ph: Rahav Segev/Photopass

RAGTAG ORCHESTRA

By SANDY MACDONALD

BAM’s Next Wave Festival offers a rare chance to see a Stew/Rodewald project in process.

It would be greedy to expect Stew and Heidi Rodewald to come up with another full-length show so soon after Passing Strange. They downplay their latest co-production, Brooklyn Omnibus – which they’re careful to call a concert, not theatre – as a mere collection of “songs and notions” about their newly adopted home.
 
They also take care to note that Brooklyn is not a singular neighborhood (except, perhaps, in the “unusual” sense); it’s a cluster of nabes, some culturally at odds. The pair twit the pretentions of Park Slope, pitting this hip-consumerist enclave against, say, the raw danger lurking in Bed-Stuy, where they posit a Connecticut infiltrator in blackface and hoodie menacingly prowling the dark streets in hopes of keeping the rents down. Contrast the “Sexy Brooklyn Mami” with her “stroller like a Hummer.”
 
Those are just a few of the catchy images that Stew – dressed like a gender-defiant linebacker, bare-calfed in a black kilt and patent-leather high-tops – toys with. The concert as a whole, with its ragtag orchestra (sitar, tuba and accordion, in addition to the usual suspects and a superb chorus consisting of Passing Strange alum Eisa Davis, Sonja Perryman and Chivas Michael), centers on the conceit of “hold music” for an imaginary taxi service that he and Rodewald have initiated now that they’ve “quit the entertainment business” – a notion that this joyous, playful convocation happily belies.
 
It’s perfectly permissible – indeed, inevitable – to hope that this song cycle might at some point evolve into another full-out show, a follow-up to the marvelous Passing Strange.