“Dancing Lessons” isn’t about the fox trot or tango.
It’s about life.
The Mark St. Germain play, currently on the Invisible Theatre stage, is sweet without being cloying, insightful without being didactic and touching without being sentimental.
And this production is a knockout, thanks to a strong cast and Susan Claassen’s sensitive direction.
Senga (Samantha Cormier) is a Broadway hoofer who had a run-in with a taxi and the knee injury she sustained may mean she will never dance again. While she is healing, she holes up in her apartment, eating junk food and drinking. Depression is her only companion.
Until there’s a knock on her door. It’s Ever (Damian Garcia), who lives in the same apartment building. They don’t know each other but he knows she is a dancer, thanks to the building’s talkative superintendent. And he needs to learn to dance for an upcoming awards ceremony the school he teaches at is holding.
He offers her lots of money for just one lesson. She has a hard time refusing.
And both of their worlds open.
Ever has Asperger’s syndrome. He hates being touched, has never been kissed, doesn’t recognize humor and is completely literal.
Senga is flippant, harbors secrets and has a tendency to stuff her feelings rather than explore and learn from them.
Together, the two shed fears and open their hearts.
This play works especially well because of Cormier and Garcia. Cormier gives us a conflicted Senga who moves from anger to empathy with a deep honesty. Cormier rarely disappoints, and this production is no exception.
Garcia, who had a slight sway and moved his body with the awkwardness of someone who isn’t comfortable in his own skin, is deeply rooted in the character. He makes Ever’s discomfort, his fears, palpable.
Under Claassen’s direction, the play breathes and moves with the grace of a dance. And it’s a dance you don’t want to miss.