First, a confession: I've never attended a rave. You know, one of those drug-fueled, dance-happy events where young hedonists gather together to party hard under an umbrella of industrial techno music? But I think "The Aluminum Show," which is playing at the decidedly non-rave-ish Robinson Center Music Hall, would have qualified had I ingested psychedelics instead of, ah, cheese dip before the show.
Was there lots of thumping techno music? Yep. Were there scantily clad dancers who hopped around on stage with abandon? Oh yeah. Did the audience toss around big, silver, pillow-shaped balloons? Yes. Were there buckets of strobe lights? Check. About the only thing missing rave-wise was somebody sucking on a pacifier — and I couldn't see all the kids in attendance.
"The Aluminum Show" has been compared to those other popular performance art shows "Stomp" and "The Blue Man Group." Those comparisons are fair in that "The Aluminum Show" is mostly spectacle — basically a group of dancers dance in and around various aluminum things, mostly tubes. There is something of a story about a small, slinky-like tube that is born and loses his bigger, slinky-like parents and, with the help of one of the more hyperactive dancers, is reunited with them again.
The program notes that "The Aluminum Show" had its debut in 2003, which is quite a while ago, but oddly enough it feels as if this show needs more work. There are bits that are truly mesmerizing. A dance number with two giant, headless aluminum figures near the beginning is just a giddy piece of work, a crazy cartoon come to life. When the Mylar balloons are tossed into the audience it's such a simple thing but one that still made me smile.
But you have to wonder why the show continues after the little story of the lost slinky is finished. And you have to wonder if there wasn't something for "The Aluminum Show" to do toward the end but have a five-minute segment that looks and sounds like it came straight from "Stomp." Also, we have nothing against dance or dancers but you can tell when the inventiveness flags in "The Aluminum Show" because that's when you see extended dance routines.
Really the bar for the kind of wow-inducing theater piece that "The Aluminum Show" strives to be has been set pretty high. There are moments when it clears that bar with ease. But there are other times when it feels like an especially trippy episode of "So You Think You Can Dance." Perhaps the next time it's in town the show will be tighter and bolder. Or I could just order the spicy cheese dip.