One way to measure the new play at Single Carrot Theatre is to observe that "Foot of Water" has a set design containing a pool of water that seems to be about that deep. Another way to measure the play is to note that it's further proof of why this group qualifies as one of the most vigorous on the local scene.
If you're accustomed to a neatly constructed two-act play in which a clearly defined story has a neat resolution, "Foot of Water" will leave you drowning in confusion. Although this movement theater-oriented piece has a script by Jessica Garrett and Ben Hoover, its scattered verbal phrases are outnumbered by grunts, groans, shouts, laughter and choreographed movement that's also pretty noisy.
Collectively creating the 50-minute-long "Foot of Water" over a 10-month period were director Hoover and cast members Garrett, Aldo Pantoja, Nathan A. Cooper, Elliott Rauh, Alix Fenhagen and Nathan Fulton. They took what a program note describes as the "Sociology of Sex" as their theme and, sure enough, the piece works constant variations on the eternal courtship rituals engaged in by men and women.
There aren't really characters or scenes in any fully realized manner, but one does get a sense of gender-related character types and there's a dating game of sorts that mostly plays out on a wood platform constructed above that foot-deep pool. Sometimes the performers jump in the pool and some of the water in turn jumps out, as at least one spectator with a water-splashed notebook can attest.
Initially, the most assertive quasi-character is a somberly black-garbed woman played by Garrett. She has more spoken words than anybody else and seems like she might function as a narrator offering poetic and polemical commentary. It's puzzling that this figure plays a lesser role as the piece goes along and almost seems marginalized by the end.
The second, lighter-garbed woman is played by Fenhagen as someone who might be open to seduction. Indeed, the four shirtless men in the cast spend much of their time circling her and making romantic overtures that can be rather aggressive.
There is so much nervous energy running around that the energy level sustains your interest in the absence of anything resembling a conventional plot. Much of the show actually resembles a modern dance performance, though one in which the crisply coordinated movement is accompanied by vocal sounds.
As dance-evocative patterns of movement and interaction are established, "Foot of Water" emphasizes the ritualistic qualities involved when men court women and, it must be added, violently compete with each other.
Although "Foot of Water" obviously disregards the standard rules of a traditionally well-made play, it actually does adhere to a contemporary theater tradition epitomized by the late Polish theater teacher Jerzy Grotowski, who is mentioned in the program note.
This approach involves a company of actors creating original work through a long development process in which physical movement generally plays a greater role than verbal expression. There's an earthy quality to such work, as all of the ritualistic movement aspires to express primal truths.
Even if you don't experience any great moments of enlightenment while watching this piece, it will give you plenty to consider before going on your next date.
"Foot of Water" runs through July 8 at Single Carrot Theatre, 120 W. North Ave. in Baltimore. Tickets are $10- $20. Call 443-844-9253 or go to http://email@example.com.