I thought The Invisible was a wry, if sometimes messy, satire of the movies until I talked to choreographer/director Jessica Jobaris. She said it was actually about the frustration of being an artist in the modern world. "But," she added generously, "there's room for interpretation."
The Invisible is a varied piece of dance theater with five characters from film history—Eadweard Muybridge, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, Shirley Temple, and Erast Garin—who clown, roll, and pose on the stage in themed scenelets. They dance-fight in a lampoon of action sequences, chase and reject each other like a hacky romantic comedy. In voiceover asides, Garin (a Soviet-era actor) keeps reminding the audience that he's "very intense." Deanna Mustard (as proto-sexpot Brooks) spreads her legs, wiggles her tail, and slams herself viciously on the floor, over and over and over again. (It's painful just to look at her deep yellow bruises.) The Invisible uses dancers for actors, actors for dancers, and a soundtrack ranging from the Kinks to slamming doors in a confusing (usually delightfully so) performance hash.
Then there's the film bit, with its voiceover asking heavy questions about meaning and aspiration while the characters skate around an ice rink. The audience laughed—parts of it were very funny—which surprised Jobaris. "I think that part is really sad," she said. "Maybe I haven't, you know, learned—" I cut her off, saying any jerk can be lugubrious, but it's the rare artist who can translate depth into light, accessible performance—think of sad-but-funny clowns like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Superficiality can be an asset.For those interested, here is another review.