Out of Hand Theater's Schreibstück is the kind of show that's much easier to enjoy than it is to explain — or pronounce, for that matter. In it's U.S. premiere, the dance piece by German choreographer Thomas Lehmen presents a funny, engrossing roundelay of both mundane movement and frenetic activity.
Three theater companies – Out of Hand, Youth Ensemble of Atlanta, and New York's Witness Relocation – each separately rehearsed and prepared 29 one-minute pieces based on Lehmen's instructions (called "the score"), which include "dance-like tasks ... elementary human activities and verbal remarks." The companies perform the pieces in a different order each time, often simultaneously with each other on stage, making Schreibstück a potent cocktail of spontaneity and precision that lasts about 90 minutes.
Part of Schreibstück's appeal comes from seeing how the different companies will interpret the same activities, which can include humorous simulations of athletic sex, painful death and silly disco-dance moves. For a piece called "Lovestory," Out of Hand envisions love at first sight in a coffee shop, complete with a rendition of "Close to You" and J. Joe Sykes imitating bunnies and songbirds. YEA presents a juvenile but operatic romantic triangle, in which all three lovers croon pop songs, including the "Good Times" theme. Witness Relocation shows a couple in a passionate embrace while the third performer reads a racy D.H. Lawrence scene.
Each troupe shows intriguing differences in performing sensibilities. Witness Relocation proves enamored of modest props such as folding chairs and beer cans. YEA reveals a hip-hop approach, employing rap-style rhyming and beatboxing in some of the pieces. Out of Hand demonstrates an almost childlike, bouncing-off-the-walls exuberance, leavened with some sly irony.
Because the pieces are all 60 seconds each and timed with stopwatches, the audience will be willing to appreciate behavior that might seem indulgent, such as watching the threesomes standing still and doing nothing in "Waiting and Watching." Schreibstück's elaborate exercises, though frequently amusing and light-hearted, contain a surprisingly sturdy metaphor for the human experience. In our lives, we all do the same basic things, we just do them differently.
Schreibstück. Through May 25. $15-$45. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. Out of Hand Theater at the Beam, 750 Glenwood Ave. 404-522-6194. www.outofhandtheater.com.