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Photo by: Bridget Besaw Gorman
Written by Mike Gorman
Directed by Simon Hammerstein
La MaMa E.T.C. (Annex Theater)
74A East Fourth Street
Th-Sat at 7 p.m., Sun at 2:30 p.m.
$20; Box Office (212) 475-7710
Opened May 30, closed June 9.
We live in cynical times. Huge corporations cheat unsuspecting stockholders, as well as the public. Politicians prove to be morally bankrupt. Terrorists blatantly disregard and devalue human life. Yet we continue to search for new heroes - on the screen, on the stage, and in the sports arena.
"Counting Coup," which opened at La MaMa the night before the opening of this year's World Cup Competition, focuses on how a young soccer player uses myth and ritual to find the inner resources that will allow him to lead his team to victory.
"Counting Coup" was written by Mike Gorman, an all-American soccer player and a playwright whose works have been produced by La MaMa since 1994 - "Biffing Mussels," "Chores, or The Big Man in the Orange Rubber Rain Suit," "A Funny Old Bird," "Single Action Shotgun," and "Ultra Light."
It was directed by Simon Hammerstein (grandson on lyricist Oscar Hammerstein) making his La MaMa debut; and features a soccer-playing chorus led by singer/storyteller Jerry Thundercloud McDonald, who performs the shamanic rituals that energize and inspire the team.
The central metaphor of "Counting Coup" is the sacrificial, heroic act of courage.
In soccer, this is the "nutmeg," in which a player kicks the ball between the defender's legs at a critical point in a championship game so that his team can ultimately win.
In Sioux Indian warfare, it is the act of "Counting Coup," in which a warrior touches an enemy warrior with a coup stick but doesn't kill him, renouncing personal glory so that by inspiring fear in the enemy, he can achieve the greater good of tribal victory.
This may all seem pretty abstract and intellectual. But McDonald's muscular dancing, and Tonya Ridgely and Joshua Eden's rhythmic and sophisticated native music bring the production down to earth just as palpably as does the sight of Federico Restrepo's giant marionettes descending from the ceiling.
Dance, music, lighting and puppetry all take the audience into the protean world where myths reside and legends are created.
If "Counting Coup" demonstrates the relationship between the athlete and the warrior, and the dreamer and the artist, it also illustrates the connection between ritual and performance.
"Counting Coup" doesn't really need academic explanations or artistic justification. Even for those totally ignorant of both the techniques of soccer and the rituals of Sioux warfare, "Counting Coup" is deeply emotional and joyously entertaining theater. [Simmons]
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