This Understated Ocean: A Review
Existence stares us in the face through the body of Meredith Bove in her solo work, This Everlasting Ocean. Bove, in a floral blouse and gray pants, stands before a microphone set downstage left, surrounded by cords and sound boxes. Her left foot pedals a loop machine as she whispers a waltz into the mic.
One-two-three, two-two-three repeats into space. Closing her eyes, she moans and hums new layers onto the looping tracks of her own voice. She crouches, adjusts some dials, fades all sounds to a premature silence.
Bove, from her Vimeo site
With a new track of oceanic hums, Bove stands, faces the back wall, shifts her weight, walks on a diagonal, stops, lifts one curved arm with subtle rigidity, and stares at a distant object. Keeping one foot on demi pointe she propels herself backwards on the diagonal, undulating her arms and spine in synch with her steps. With immaculate specificity, she slides down the back wall into a slumped position on the floor (a lovely catastrophe she repeats three times).
She returns to the machinery to adjust more knobs. Henry Purcell joins us from the record player, adding welcome, if unnecessary, melody to her process. Isolated acts of virtuosity appear and disappear in the boney nonchalance of her movement. Her skull arches away from her body. Her arms arch away from her torso. Her eyes scan an oblique horizon as she walks backwards on the balls of her feet. Every shift of weight bears a sense of nuanced, if meaningless, decision.
Though the piece alludes to an immense body of water, she never breaks a sweat. Whispers and gestures surface, repeat, and disappear with ample arid space between them to allow the audience to squirm, yawn, and scan the otherwise bare stage.
I'm not sure I want to wait for Bove’s outcome. But precisely when I can wait no longer, the ocean appears. My eyes find her body riding back and forth across the stage, her paced, asymmetrical steps falling faster at the edges of the space, leaving a flailing trail of limbs. The time between each pass allows the vague moans of the sound score to expand in haunting relevance, leaving us with a resonating echo: delicately wild and understatedly huge.