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Everyone has secrets and stories to tell.Only the bravest storytellers share their demons with an audience. When three from the troupe So Say We All join with four dancers from San Diego Dance Theater you get intoxicating, brutally honest dance theater.

The spoken word/dance collaboration Damaged Goods at the White Box is visceral and in your face, and strangely cathartic for both performers and viewers. You are immediately awed by the powerful delivery and willingness to share deep secrets about friends, lovers, PTSD, STDS, and horrific games with firearms.

Justin Hudnall interacts with dancers in "Damaged Goods."  Photos: Manny Rotenberg

Justin Hudnall interacts with dancers in “Damaged Goods.” Photos: Manny Rotenberg

But as tragic as that sounds, the stories are framed around humor and survival. You find yourself squirming and cheering. Damaged Goods is produced, directed, and choreographed by Jean Isaacs of SDDT, and co-directed by Justin Hudnall of SSWA.  The program starts out with the energy of a salon and quickly builds momentum. Verse becomes intensely animated because of attractive dancers who interpret and respond to provocative text.

When Hudnall laments about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affecting his sexual performance, dancers climb on him as if he were a tree. His girlfriend accused him of being more interesting in fighting than fucking, and everything scares him. While he describes psychotherapy with his shrink, dancers become coat racks and furniture. Without a hitch, he flings his coat onto their heads and fingers and sputters about his guilt for surviving.

Hudnall has a keen sense of timing and balance. Only a few will laugh when he talks about punching his cat, but he draws you in to his personal drama. He is a confident mover, at ease even when dancers grab and twist him. It’s rare to observe this kind of chemistry between verse and dance, and not lose dialogue.

April Ventura is a standup comedian and highly physical storyteller. She shouts about living with herpes and her fat body while two dancers manipulate a shop vacuum in hilarious and suggestive ways. Brian Simpson describes how he survived foster care and a childhood game of Russian Roulette.

April Ventura with dancers Trystan Loucado and Zaquia Salinas.

April Ventura with dancers Trystan Loucado and Zaquia Salinas.

There are tragedies and triumphs in the text. Delivery is spirited. The last two stories need a trim and some tightening. All three narrators need to guide the viewers, let them know when it’s okay to laugh or breathe. If you go, don’t be afraid to let out a guffaw. That’s the whole point of this communal experience. Honestly, the artists and audience will feel better when it’s over.

Brian Simpson speaks of foster care and violence.

Brian Simpson speaks of foster care and violence.

Rewarding interpretations come from dancers: Rachel Holdt; Liv Isaacs-Nollet; Trystan Loucado; and Zaquia Mahler Salinas. The production includes excellent sound scores, transitions, and a wine bar. The artistry in this multi-media collaboration has great promise for future productions.

Damaged Goods: July 18 & 19 at 8 pm. July 20 at 6:30 pm, at White Box Live Arts. 2590 Truxtun Road.

Rachel Holdt, Brian Simpson, Zaquia Salinas, Justin Hudnall, and Liv Isaacs-Nicolet.  Photo:  Manny Rotenberg

Rachel Holdt, Brian Simpson, Zaquia Salinas, Justin Hudnall, and Liv Isaacs-Nicolet. Photo: Manny Rotenberg

Kris Eitland

Kris Eitland

Kris Eitland covers dance and theater for Sandiegostory.com and freelances for other publications, including the Union Tribune and Dance Teacher Magazine. She grew up performing many dance styles and continued intensive modern dance and choreography at the Univ. of Minnesota, Duluth, and San Diego State Univ. She also holds a journalism degree from SDSU. Her career includes stints in commercial and public radio news production. Eitland has won numerous Excellence in Journalism awards for criticism and reporting from the San Diego Press Club. She has served on the Press Club board since 2011 and is a past president. She is a co-founder of Sandiegostory.com. She has a passion for the arts, throwing parties with dancing and singing, and cruising the Pacific in her family's vintage trawler. She trains dogs, skis, and loves seasonal trips to her home state of Minnesota.

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