Body language

The First Thread

Beyond the Proscenium Productions: getting physical.

Beyond the Proscenium Productions: getting physical.

Rated 4.0

When local experimental theater group Abandon Productions disbanded a couple years ago, we missed their unique, bold, physically led performances. Stepping into that void is Beyond the Proscenium Productions with their newest offering The First Thread—a fascinating, movement-driven production that examines emotions through physical dynamics instead of spoken words.

There is no dialogue in the short hour-and-a-quarter piece. Instead, the seven-member cast, titled the Sacramento Theatre Experiment (STE), is driven by simple sounds of waves or eclectic music that ranges from ethereal and haunting to jarring, pulsating beats. The troupe’s movements vary from gentle and graceful to athletic and violent as they work to emote feelings of loneliness, isolation, joy, playfulness, rage and peace.

STE creator Nick Avdienko workshopped The First Thread with his performers, resulting in a collaborative, cohesive effort. The seven-member troupe started out with a simple picture of a man sitting alone on the beach, and together they experimented and explored ways of translating moments and meanings through movement.

The cast is already in place when the audience files in, the members sitting stoically with their backs to the crowd. The seven, dressed in blacks and browns, begin to sway back and forth to the sounds of crashing waves. What follows is sometimes elegant, other times brutal.

The small setting at California Stage lends an intimate feeling—a black-walled theater with no props except for a white box and in a later piece, black and red scarves.

Thought the show is rather short, it would actually be more powerful if cut by about 10 minutes, eliminating a couple of the middle numbers that lag in energy or feel padded on. Regardless, the end result is a captivating, innovative production offered up by a talented troupe of physically creative performers.