If you can take a work of art as an indicator of its creators’ state of mind, then it’s clear from the other shoe that Beth Corning and her collaborator Kay Cummings are frustrated, angry, and perhaps more than a little bit bitter. The source of their frustration? In part it’s the usual suspects that haunt nearly all women who have survived more than a couple of decades into adulthood – that is, if I must name them, patriarchal power and misogyny – but, even more, it seems to be the tenor of cultural conversations, particularly among those who occupy the ideological left. “I don’t feel like dialogue because it’s too hard to get people to think differently, they’re all just yelling at each other,” Cummings complains early in the show. “Not many of us are really interested in listening. We just want a bubble that agrees with us.”

Beth Corning, The Other Shoe. Photo by Frank Walsh, courtesy CorningWorks.

The “other shoe” of the show’s title may refer to that other side of the conversation no one is listening to; or, in a sideways sort of way, it may refer to the lack of “if-the-shoe-were-on-the-other-foot” empathy that such a refusal to listen implies. It may also refer to the cloud of anxiety and apprehension we’ve all been living under, which is literalized by scenic designer Stephanie Mayer Staley with a cloud of white shoes hovering like a flock of birds above the stage. 

Corning and Cummings perform in black and white costumes on a black and white stage, a clear nod to their perception that there seems to be no grey middle for compromise and dialogue (costumes by artist Kristin McLain). A prime target of their frustration seems to stem from finding themselves, as white women, labeled “privileged” despite being lifelong victims of harassment, discrimination, and oppression. This is, of course, dangerous water to wade into, and they know it: the directors note states simply: “If by chance you don’t agree with what is being presented…well that’s the point.”

Corning invited choreographers Donald Byrd, Martha Clarke, Li Chiao-Ping, and Max Stone to stage solo dances in addition to the pieces she created; the result is a series of disconnected vignettes (mostly danced by Corning) interspersed with spoken text and song (mostly delivered by Cummings). What seems to unite the dances with each other, and the text, is an overall mood of dispiritedness and despair. The final image offers a glimmer of hope in its serene acceptance of the inevitability of change, but the show’s ending also reminds us that we never know when that other shoe will drop.