The ballet opens on a city park in midsummer. All of the figures on the stage are frozen as the music starts, but a rolling tympani and a spirited lilting melody rises from the orchestra pit and seems to magically imbue the performers with life and an affinity for cheese.
As the action begins on the stage, the crowd is dancing blithely from sight to sight, revelling in the simplicity of life without a harelip. Kanda the street performer is miming a scene from Gotterdammerung, although it is difficult to tell which scene. His work is filled with joy, life, and quiet desperation, for he is trying to earn enough money to buy a ring for his betrothed, Zilla. At the end of his performance, a nearby businessman takes to the stage to express the emotions that Kanda's performance has wrought in him. "I was reminded of the time I got caught stealing a kiss from my fiancee's catfish," his dancing tells Kanda. Kanda is about to reply with the most energetic and intricate dance of his career, when the buinessman stops him and drops an expensive set of bookends into Kanda's collection basket. The businessman then dances madly into the audience and is injured, ending the first act.
The second act opens on Kanda seated on a hassock in an abbatoir, caressing his bookends. He sets the bookends down and flings himself powerfully upwards, burning his nose on the overhead spotlight. When he lands, he is filled with purpose and scuttles offstage with his bookends as the music rises and seems to say "After the ballet, eat at Joe's."
After nine scene changes and three intermissions, the second scene in the second act begins as Kanda arrives at the local airport. He trades the bookends with the ticket agent for a plane ticket to Columbus and the suitcase of his choice. Kanda dances around the terminal in seeming delirium, until a chorus of baggage handlers dance on and remove him, then return to the stage for a deep and moving tribute to Kanda and the forces that compel him. The audience, assuming that it is paying any attention, comes to understand that Kanda was reminded by the bookends of his Uncle Lou, a haberdasher in the south Bronx, who impacted his life by once giving him a scrap of felt shaped like the Eiffel tower. This memory sparks another memory of his Aunt Bernice chiding him for filling her best dress pumps with mayonnaise. Although it is totally unrelated, Kanda is suddenly hit with the realization that he would rather be a video arcade attendant and marry someone on fewer medications than Zilla.
As act three opens, a small Basque woman carrying seven copies of Ethan Frome spins dizzyingly across the stage to show that four months have passed since we last saw Kanda. As Kanda comes into view, he is accompanied by several women and a press agent, and as they dance after him the entire sordid story of how his involvement in a video‑game token forgery ring led him to a life of drugs, violence, and sugarry snacks unfolds. His press agent then straddles the stage, moving the audience to tears with Kanda's triumphant rise to stardom in the adult film industry. With an air of resigned grandeur, Kanda waves them all away and dances intimately before the audience, as if to say "What can I say? I sold out." He then loses consciousness, ending the performance.
Site Contents © 2004 Robert M. Rowan