Opening Ceremony RTW Spring/Summer 2018 New York

A savvy audience member at tonight’s performance of Changers, the dance piece–as-collection-presentation staged by Opening Ceremony, pointed out that Humberto Leon and Carol Lim have created quite a body of work in the past three years: A play, a politically themed pageant, a Justin Peck–choreographed ballet, and now this theatrical experience, with Mia Wasikowska and Lakeith Stanfield playing young lovers who grow apart. Lim, Leon, and their regular collaborator, Spike Jonze, have come a long way since they debuted 100% Lost Cotton in September 2014; after that performance, your humble reviewer confessed herself rather perplexed about whether she was meant to be assessing the drama or the clothes. That wasn’t an issue this time out, inasmuch as Jonze, who scripted and directed the piece, was really using Opening Ceremony’s latest collection to tell his story. The drama seemed extrapolated from the clothes—which, if you’re going to stage dance pieces–cum–fashion presentations, is exactly as it should be.

As noted, this was a tale of young love. Perhaps Jonze fixed on youth as a key theme because of the rather collegiate vibe of much of the collection. There were faux sorority tees, varsity jackets, kilts, plaid flannels, duffle coats, and that old uni standby, sweats. Some of the details were hard to read onstage, but a few jumped out—the volume on a dress sleeve’s shoulder, pearl embellishment on a sweater, the slick of neon patent leather. Stanfield’s character was a rather natty dresser to start out—the kind of guy who shrugs on a blazer with his slouchy cords—but then when the bottom falls out of his relationship, he goes all track pants and hoodies. Real enough, that. Wasikowska had a more interesting arc, prodded by a pair of hedonistic friends to trade out her loose plaid dress for a sexy knit one with glittery stripes, and later, go all pill-y and ecstatic at the club in an acid-hued satin kilt. By the time the lovers reunite, Stanfield in his sweats and Wasikowska looking quite grown up and refined in a strong-shouldered pink blazer and matching leggings, the writing is on the wall: She has evolved, he has not.

The performance had some transcendent moments, such as the scene in the club, with a troupe of dancers going for it, and the singing of Abraham Boyd, a vocalist Jonze discovered busking in Central Park. The dance moves, devised by Ryan Heffington (choreographer of Sia’s video for “Chandelier”), packed a lot of punch. And Wasikowska and Stanfield shone, each of them committed, affecting, and ultra-charismatic. As a whole, Changers was absorbing in its telling of a familiar story, and it got across the vibe of being in your early 20s and immersed in the process of becoming yourself. It was a bit like a season 1 episode of Girls in that way, but with melancholy in place of laceration. (And, side note, the Arts and Crafts–y wallpaper prints looked great in their cameo appearances.) So a rousing success!

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Except. For all the congratulations Leon and Lim (and Jonze) are due for exploring new forms for a fashion presentation, the fact that they seem committed to narrating collections this way raises the question: Are these the best stories they can tell? It’s not a complaint to say that this outing ably expressed a certain vision of how people are. What would it look like for a collection given the narrative treatment to posit, instead, how people could potentially be? The Opening Ceremony players are capable of rising to that challenge. Stay tuned.


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