There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
In Sinking Up, a series of plays from Project Y, Sam Elmore does the “It’s not you; it’s me” dance—literally. Elmore and fellow performer Peter Schmitz morph into roles in relationships platonic, romantic, and father/son in a performance that mixes traditional dialogue with movement, often balletic and at times nearly acrobatic. Four short plays are broken up with themed interludes of dance with little if any dialogue—a mimicking of various sports, for example, or the semblance of sex (leading to an injurious misstep and the repetition of the aforementioned phrase). Schmitz and Elmore circle each other, lean on each other, and pretend to battle each other in these graceful exercises—whose meaning is not always necessarily clear. It’s not for nothing that the director introduces the work as an evening “full of questions” in the playbill. The more traditional playlets are more straightforward: “The Range” shows two friends who ascribe different levels of importance and intimacy to their seemingly mindless Saturday nights at the driving range; “Spitting Image” is an intense if predictable meeting between a grown son and his estranged gay father; “Ten-Minute Dad” shows a boy who’s inexplicably signed up for military service without telling anyone in an out-the-door confrontation with his angry dad; and in “Walt and Jake,” the heretofore virile performers transform impressively sans makeup into old men, senile brothers who are awaiting death in their home and trying like hell not to be discovered and dragged to a home of a different kind. Parts of the performance are improvised, and the H Street Playhouse’s setup gives Elmore and Schmitz plenty of room to move around, snake into, and interact with the audience. Costume adjustments are few, with the actors dressed in khakis and layers of shirts that come off and on with each character. The live music, provided by Glen Oliff, is also minimal, his bass and electric guitar subtly underscoring moments of tension and sadness. So it’s up to the actors to fill the room: With Schmitz’s twitchy, tough, and often abrasive characters bravely balanced out by Elmore’s usually vulnerable and questioning ones, you’ll be too taken with the stark reality brought to life in front of you to notice the lack of niceties.—Tricia Olszewski