Dream on Monkey Mountain -- When dreams are translated into performance art, the results can be mixed. In this massive show by Trinidadian Derek Walcott, folklore and dreamscapes combine to forge a performance that is at times engrossing and viscerally stimulating. But there are arid patches in this long production (approaching three and a half hours) that soften the impact of Walcott's fevered visions. Employing a rich, rasta-jambalaya of language, including poetic riffs, Caribbean patois, and backstreet slang, Walcott (who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1992) attempts to portray the restless search for a genuine black identity in a West Indies chafing under British colonial rule. To that end, he embroils an old hermit named Makak (Cornell Calhoun III) in a drunken row during a rare visit to town; it lands him in a jail cell. Abused by a sneering Corporal Lestrade and mocked by two other natives in an adjoining cell, Makak longs to return to Africa, his spiritual home. From that point on, the dream takes flight, as pounding drums and waves of dancers accompany Makak on his glorious quest. Despite the show's faults, it's a pleasure to see Karamu and director/co-choreographer Terrence Spivey grapple with such weighty material. Through May 21 at the Karamu Performing Arts Theatre, 2355 East 89th St., 216-795-7077. -- Howey
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