Review: Dancing with Dictators in David Byrne’s Here Lies Love

It’s no wonder, then, that the most expressive element of “Here Lies Love” (along with Clint Ramos’ costumes, which also move beautifully) is the choreography by Annie-B Parson. Based on small hand gestures and large traffic patterns, it suggests a fuller range of human participation than mechanical production and narrow focus sometimes achieve.

Is it wrong to seek this post entirely? (Or, as Imelda sings: “Is it a sin to love too much?”) For most of its intermission-less 90 minutes, “Here Lies Love” belittles the question, preferring to be treated as anything — something artistic, a dance party — besides what it is. In this way, it recalls Byrne’s Broadway musical “American Utopia,” on which Timbers and Parson also collaborated. But this show, which has no story, just needs to be stylish and fun to score its points.

“Here Lies Love” bets that magic can make up for the narrative — or rather, in a show about the dangers of political demagoguery, the magic itself is the narrative. It is a state of form follows function in fire. We are drawn to cultural and political excitement in the same way, often in a dangerous way.

Perhaps the irony of making a musical about it is more deeply realized on the dance floor. He was for me in the audience, where almost everyone had to stand up and be a part of the story, not an observer of it. (There were only 42 seats). And maybe, 10 years later, with our own politics looking so much like Marcos’, no one can keep their distance.

Anyway, on Broadway, the material didn’t match the action in such a way that it reached the balcony until the final, stellar song, “God Draws Straight.” Led by Moses Villarama, and drawing on eyewitness comments on the peaceful 1986 revolution, it acknowledges the moral superiority of its true heroes–the Filipino people–in the only way music can: by giving it a beautiful sound. Finally, it’s okay to applaud.

Here lies love
at Broadway Theatre, Manhattan; Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.