New York Times theater critic Jesse McKinley remarks, "It doesn't have an orchestra, it doesn't have an original score, all the music is pre-recorded, everything from Benny Goodman to Robert Palmer, Simply Irresistible, and to that score dancers are telling a story over three separate stages." Contact calls itself a dance play because it is relies on dance more than anything else to carry the story.
It is actually three stories in two acts, one based on Jean-Honoré Fragonard's famous eighteenth century Rococo painting The Swing. The second story takes place in Queens. N.Y. in the '50s and the third in present day New York. The three stories maintain continuity in their exploration of the human need for contact and addressing this need through dance.
Fragonard's portrait of a young eighteenth century aristocrat lounging on the lawn while his female companion teasingly swings above him, allowing him to peer under her skirts, becomes a titillating acrobatic role-play.
Susan Stroman, its director/choreographer, won a Tony for her work on the piece. Karen Ziemba and Boyd Gaines won awards as Best Featured Actress and Actor in a Musical, respectively .
Ziemba plays a woman who uses dance and fantasy to escape her overbearing and at times violent husband. Their tense dinner in an Italian restaurant is burdened by dense silence cut with sharp oppressing words: "Don't move, Dont smile! Shut up!" She fantasizes about dance and uses dance as a mechanism to establish her power, express her femininity, and explore her sexuality. In the presence of her husband she is a weak and frightened woman, but in his absence she transforms into a powerful and graceful creature.
Another refreshing talent (also nominated for a Tony) is Deborah Yates. Yates plays the object of fantasy - the glamour girl dressed in yellow - to an 'ungainly' Boyd Gaines, as he pines for her in a dark, sexy nightclub. He longs for contact with her but is intimidated by his inability to dance.
Contact is fresh and smart. It is both amusing and thoughtful, and proved the Tony's do represent innovation in the theatre.