Drama from delightful to dangerous

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James Tutten

L-R: Chris Pruett, Gila Makarova, Leilani Wolfgramm act out a fighting scene in “fragment(ed).”

Empty Spaces Theater Ensemble, under the direction of John DiDonna, presented a jaw-dropping experiment in live performance with “fragment(ed)” at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Orlando Thursday July 12. From delightful to dangerous, this production attempts to answers the complications of love and how it can lead to the fragmentation of people.

“It’s incredible to know these thoughts that we have mean something to others; as an artist you never know beforehand,” said director John DiDonna.

The play is a compilation of actual accounts about the life, love and personal relationships of dancers and actors. In spoken word style, the ensemble cast proposed questions about what love is and what it means to be in love.

“I can’t believe this is in Orlando; this is New York quality,” said audience member Grover Austin.

Relationships slowly and awkwardly develop in “fragment(ed),” as different couples begin to meet and several stories play out at once. This gave the ensemble cast a chance to show off their acting chops, as it involved quickly timed exchanges between all members.

Things soon heat up as the first set of provocative dance sequences escalates during the song “Freak of Nature.” All of the music for “fragment(ed)” was originally written by Tod Kimbro and is blended with the play’s modern style and steamy subject matter.

In addition to all the dancing and acting, there were moments where the battle of love was portrayed with action-packed sword fights brilliantly choreographed by fight director, Bill Warriner.

Several actors also used simple bungee cords to represent the struggle of power and control in a relationship, fighting to maintain control as they are spun around the stage, conveying the end of a turbulent relationship.

“We literally lost blood over that,” said actor Parris Baker. “You rip a bungee cord and it rips you back.”

Show organizers were not fully committed to the next installment of this series, only because it hasn’t been developed yet, but they revealed plans to create an experimental dance ensemble some time next year based on concepts similar to “fragment(ed),” only expanded even further.

Work on the group’s next production, “Phantasmagoria III,” is set to begin in a matter of weeks and is set to run at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center from mid to late October.