David Bazemore

Ensemble Theater Co. Presents Syncopation

Dance Fever Hits at the New Vic

Henry (Zander Meisner) is inordinately proud of his sixth-floor walkup apartment on New York City’s Lower East Side. Is it because he’s found a rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan? No, although that’s a good guess. What he’s excited about is all the potential that’s been unleashed there in the form of ballroom dance. The names of great dancers who have used the studio as a rehearsal space before him are scrawled on the walls, and they read like a who’s who of early-20th-century dancing celebrities. Were Vernon and Irene Castle ever really there, or did Henry scratch those names on the wall himself in a fit of romantic embellishment? That’s what Anna (Sara Brophy) suspects, although it doesn’t bother her enough to send her away.

In this breezy and sparkling production of Allan Knee’s original play, the actors perform all manner of entertaining routines, from difficult period dances to equally challenging physical portrayals of awkwardness, humility, and even high-spirited fun. Meisner and Brophy keep the audience enthralled through two memorable acts as the duo, who meet because of a classified advertisement, become first a successful ballroom dance pair and then, well, you get the idea. Details like Henry’s dustup with some anti-union goons and Anna’s flirtation with suffrage add historical verisimilitude to what is essentially a romance, but it’s those flying feet that set this world to whirling.

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