By Merilyn Jackson
FOR THE INQUIRER
Abe Lincoln had an irksome dream that he’d be assassinated just two weeks before he actually was. Dancer Lindsay Browning and her father, actor David Browning, collaborated in a dance theater work they called Lincoln Luck that evoked a dreamlike atmosphere while not treating it as a narrative. It premiered at the Painted Bride over Lincoln’s birthday weekend.
The audience entered through the café with David Browning, bearded and in Lincoln dress, inviting us to follow him into the theater. Of course -- the theater, where Lincoln goes to meet his end.
Lindsay Browning is there waiting for us onstage, in a harness and hoop skirt with three long white trains trailing out in different directions. With one red-gloved hand, she waves the air before her, writhing within these confines like a woman possessed. She’s soon set herself free and dances to Thomas Wave’s sitar, guitar and organic sound environment.
The set consisted of three long rectangles for the poetic video projections by Gaetan Spurgin. Tommy Burkel is the youngster in one of the videos and Myra Bazell dances in another.
The lighting by Madison Cario infused the work with a mournful aura that also helped to create the work's ambiguity. This moody atmosphere sometimes overwhelmed the piece, becoming more dominant than the meaning, which was hard to decipher. We were supposed to be viewing Lincoln as a 217-year-old man, dancing with his daughter in 2026, thought that didn’t come through for me.. Nevertheless, if you took it as a mystical dream and just went with it, it had its moments of clarity and beauty.
When John Luna joined Lindsay Browning in a duet, each swung a gold pocket watch on a chain. Luna took a walk to and fro, still swinging his watch by its fob, but it pulled him in the opposite direction each time. Is time tugging him back?
David Browning’s soliloquies were lovely, notably the one where Lincoln speculates on what would have happened if he’d had a daughter, rather than four sons: “A girl would’ve changed us,” he says, “to dance while bullets rang out.” He was most charming when he carried in a birthday balloon and blew out the candles on what looked like his birthday pie. The candles read 87, bringing us back from the future to the present. And the lights went out.