Not to get too essentialist, but if you ever were a boy, had boys, played with boys, or wanted to be one, you’ll recognize the romp of punishment and play that is Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido’s Still Standing You. The show begins with Ampe lying on his back, holding Garrido aloft with his legs. Garrido greets the audience, amiably chattering on about his exploration of Portland and asking if we’re comfortable, no mind to the shaking legs supporting him. Then Garrido irreverently says, “We get contemporary style now—very serious,” and it quickly devolves into a dance of humor, intimacy, sadism, and tenderness, as the two friends demolish every physical boundary of their relationship.
CAMPO/Pieter Ampe & Guilherme Garrido: Still Standing You
Winningstad Theatre (PCPA)
Sat, Sept 14 at 6:30
Monsters sounds, velociraptor roars, ninja moves, and other boyhood games abound as the two climb on each other, manipulate each other’s bodies, and throw each other about, colliding with the floor in cringe-inducing smacks. Like boys, many of the encounters start out playful, but as soon as the first jab is made, intentional or not, it devolves into who can inflict the most pain, like some sort of contemporary dance torture porn.
It gets truly humorous when the pants start to come off—and then a little dangerous with the loss of the undies (Ampe wears Superman), if only for a minute. Their absolute comfort with being naked, and their utter uneroticization of their bodies, quickly discharges any discomfort for us—although they flirt with risk, particularly when Garrido is holding Ampe over his head at the foot of the stage, both men sweating, shaking, and looking a muscle twinge away from collapsing on the front row (which might appropriately be called the splash zone—don’t sit there if you’re afraid of a stranger’s sweat).
Once they’re naked, the intimacy of their play pushes far past most boys—and most lovers, too. One hand tightly gripping the other’s penis, they spend a number of minutes in a Marx Brothers–style dance. Only one couple walked out, which I consider a success for show in which two men drag each other around by their genitals. But you haven’t laughed until you’ve seen a grown man bellow into the foreskin of another like it’s a blow horn.
What elevates the work from mere clowning and physical spectacle, though, is the tenderness that seeps between the two friends—whether in the way Ampe’s fingers wiggle as they reach for Garrido’s like they’re seeking reassurance, or in the heart Garrido traces on Ampe’s back in a moment of exhaustion. Though punishing, their dance is ultimately one that explores a recognizable vocabulary of human relationships. In some way, we all carry, support, collide, and sometimes throw aside the people we love. Yes, most of us could never imagine probing and choreographing even our closest relationships with such unabashed physical fervor, but as we watch these two grown men tap their inner boys and push them to their extremes, it’s hard not to respect their courage to do so—and wonder, if only a little bit, how far we could push our own.