In 'Making Advances,' a staged revolution

Mature audiences attending the Arts Collective’s performance of “Making Advances, Revealing Stories of Gender and Sexual Identity” at Howard Community College, in celebration of the Horowitz Performing Arts Center’s 2017-2018 theme, “Revolution,” will likely find themselves spellbound.

“Revolution,” according to the college’s website, provides a platform for artists and art patrons to reflect on societal shifts in technology, art and politics. In keeping with the critically acclaimed Arts Collective’s aim to serve as a creative cauldron, “Making Advances” melds a variety of visual and performance styles in a bold and wonderfully imaginative journey.

Directed by producing artistic director S. G. Kramer, the show was devised through rehearsed improv, music and movement by the cast — Jamie Barrios, Douglas Beatty, Makayla Beckles, Chania Hudson, Daniel Johnston, Kelli Jones, Maia Krapcho, Sarah Luckadoo, Michael Makar and Allie Press — in collaboration with the show’s creatives.

The creatives include Kramer, Andrew M. Haag, Jr. (light design), Emma K. McDonnell assisted by Hudson (set design), Jessica Welch (costume design), Bruce F. Press (video production), Emma K. McDonnell and Chris Sisson (sound design), Brichard Foley (concept consultant), Ashe Frost (stage management) and Michael Schreibstein (production assistant).

At curtain, ethereal lights rise on a shadowy cosmos represented by stage fog, evocative costumes, music and free-style dance movement (one cast member twirls a spinning globe) as a prelude to video clips from interviews with real people.

This surreal universe, juxtaposed and paired with the realism of the video clips, will resurface at strategic moments, threaded between storytelling scenes and again at play’s end.

In an opening clip, a young girl, Caroline Broderick, adorably explains the main difference between boys and girls. Boys, she says, put things in their pockets; girls don’t have them.

Sweet moments like these (and there are many) lend innocence to an honest and tasteful production that fosters acceptance and forgiveness as it focuses on sensitive topics.

A medley of diverse folks will appear in the videos, including Rachel Adams; Eve Baldwin; Charlotte, Clara and Caroline Broderick; Timoth David Copney; Brichard and Trish Foley; Ashe Frost; Skyy Garcia; Jim and Tara Hart; Daniel Heine; Bennett and Stephen Horvath; Valerie Lash; Nic Maloney; Ryna and Stephanie May; Joan Nicholas-Walker; Colin Riley and Jalen and Keandal Walker.

Actors Hudson and Beatty start the storytelling rolling with a childlike, free-flowing scene that explores the physicality of gender. In the upbeat vignette that follows, Johnston and Press portray animated dollmakers.

Scene 3 brings a twist to the classic tale of “Cinderella” narrated by Barrios and delightfully enacted by Beckles, Krapcho, Makar, Jones, Press and Johnston.

Beckles and Krapcho portray friends with diametrically opposed tastes (sparkles versus camo), followed by Johnston and Luckadoo in a touching father/daughter scene. A girl’s first experience with menstruation in a believable scene featuring Krapcho as the mom, Press as the adolescent and Makar as her obnoxious brother, follows.

Beatty and Makar are equally convincing as worlds-apart father and son. Then Jones, as a single mom of a transgender daughter portrayed by Hudson, is brutally honest about her difficulty finding acceptance.

Next, a group of young friends — Beatty, Beckles, Luckadoo, and Jones — meet at a movie theater and engage in laughter and gossip, and two young women fall in love.

The next scene, featuring Johnston as a drag queen and Beatty as his friend, caps a beautifully conceived and performed Act 1.

Act 2 will bring more surreal performances and new stories, laughter and tears, a continuation of a few of the stories begun in Act 1, a nod to the #MeToo movement, and heavier conversations about sex (particularly in a scene enacting a ménage à trois).

And video clips will comment on universal topics such as what being in love feels like.

The stellar quality of the directing, design, acting and tech in “Making Advances” never falters from start to finish; all deserve mention as standouts. In the program, McDonnell writes on their behalf that the cast and creatives hope to leave audiences “with something that feels bright, cosmic and expansive.”

And this they do.

They also leave an understanding of terms like “twink” and “cub” and “party-bi” and lingering chuckles over loveable lines like ‘that crafty little gumdrop.”

“Making Advances” continues through Sunday, June 17, Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, with Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows at 8 p.m., and a matinee with after-show discussion Sunday at 3 p.m. General admission is $15. Students/seniors pay $10. Buy tickets online at howardcc.edu or call 443-518-1500.

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