Joe Goode’s ‘The Rambler’ muses and moseys 

Joe Goode Performance Group’s world premiere “The Rambler” is appropriately named. The 75-minute dance-theater piece, a pastiche of spoken word, movement and music at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, rambles pleasantly and is intermittently provocative, but in the end feels as aimless as its characters.

Affable choreographer-director Goode, celebrating 25 years in San Francisco, is onstage during the more targeted moments: He introduces the show with a brief reminiscence about his arrival to The City, and midway, does a nice job crooning a country tune in front of the closed curtain.

During his song, one of the more dramatically staged vignettes (clever design by Basil Twist, costumes by Wendy Sparks, lighting by Jack Carpenter) is being set up.

In what looks like a circus act, two men stacked upon each other draped in white material end up being the skirt of a very tall woman, who sings about sensual pleasures of life. Her exact point, related to rambling, isn’t clear.

Individual performers take center stage in other murky segments. A Clint Eastwood-like cowboy roams to a musical interlude seemingly from a Sergio Leone film; a woman in a long, platinum-blond wig at a table cries about floods (is she a Hurricane Katrina victim?); a black woman wonders why only white men get to be ramblers; a person emerges from under a mummy-like, full-body mask.

While their poems themes don’t necessarily resonate, the nine dancers in Goode’s troupe — Felipe Barrueto-Cabello, Damara Vita Ganley, Melecio Estrello, Jessica Swanson, Andrew Ward, Patricia West, Alexander Zendzian, Brian Barayuga and Katelyn Stiles — are a pleasure to watch. Goode’s contemporary choreography showcases their skill and technique.

Composer Jesse Olsen Bay’s music nicely complements the movement and provides a thread to the piece, as does the staging, characterized by a moving curtain on a rod, which puts a different frame around each segment.

Freewheeling, disjointed and sometimes evocative, “The Rambler” has a few moments, but falls short of Goode’s 2009 “Traveling Light.”

While that site-specific work staged at San Francisco’s historic Old Mint building (and revived last year due to popular demand) was a thrilling amalgamation of scenes and movement that resulted in a profound meditation on life, the pieces comprising “The Rambler” leave the viewer slightly wistful, but mostly wondering about the wandering.


The Rambler

Presented by Joe Goode Performance Group

Where: Novellus Theater, 701 Mission St. (at Third Street), San Francisco
When: 8, 2 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $19 to $49
Contact: (415) 978-2787;;

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Leslie Katz

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