|Lately, Los Angeles proves that when it plays, it pours. Given the enormous success of the recent Fringe Festival, it seems we barely have time to catch our breaths before whisking off to the TCG conference or darting in and out of the Radar LA Festival. Add the regular openings to what’s already playing and it’s an embarrassment of riches. I didn’t see much of what was playing at the Radar Festival, but I caught a trio of visually eclectic and powerfully provocative plays at The Los Angeles Theatre Center. Here are some of my thoughts.|
Christine Marie & Ensemble: Ground To Cloud & Miya Matreyek: Myth and Infrastructure
In the darkness, lithe silhouettes of dancers loom across a screen as they interact in a dazzling display of choreographed spectacle and shadow play. Combining various effects, including 3-D, Christine Marie and cast create a homage to inventions such as the light bulb and the natural phenomenon of lightning, electrical currents and superstition. The heady result is a luminous and engaging artistry set to a haunting, occasionally dissonant composition by William Mark. The precision to detail and expert timing wholly captivates. A male figure’s shadow pushes through the blades of grass lit up onscreen, a pair of women seemingly dance onstage together even though they are physically far apart and a woman feeds a bird before smothered herself by a pair of clasping hands. The images conjure the ancient and the modern in an entirely innovative way, integrating physical space with light and shadow.
Written, directed & created by Christine Marie
Cast: Christine Marie, Paul Tubiak, Rachelle Mestrovich, and Lead Puppeteer, Eugenia Barbuc
Following Ground to Cloud, is Miya Matreyek’s stunningly transfixing video and screen projection that is both cinematic and theatrical in its montages. Handling brightly colored fruit, to sifting through scientific journals, Matreyek’s hands dance across the screen as she subtly touches on images that come to life at her fingertips. Lighting birthday candles, tickling goldfish, and causing the stars to float and fall, all from her goddess-like expressions. Deftly, she introduces us to these strange optical illusions before her coup de arte; a Mother Earth/Gaia figure that springs life from her back where tree roots entangle in her shadow. From the early stages of man, to modern skylines, she wanders like an invisible ghost past skyscrapers and bridges, before swallowing man up altogether. The buildings too are overtaken by the earth itself, returning to its original state, residing safely in her hands. It is truly mesmerizing!
As You Are Now So Once Were We
The Company transports the audience in a conundrum of time and spatial relations from Ireland to the restaurant, Ensenada, across the street by the clever moving around of cardboard boxes. The opening number hits its zenith and from there, the show’s premise becomes strangely disjointed. Set to music, the cast of two pairs of men and women slide, lift, position and move cardboard boxes in a dizzying choreography that repeats in a taxing refrain. The boxes represent place and time, but the storyline is stretched too thin for the premise to take hold. Visually curious, it is fascinating to see what becomes of a simple cardboard box the first time.
Directed by Jose Miguel Jimenez
Cast: Brian Bennett, Nyree Yergainharsian, Rob McDermott, Tanya Wilsonw
Los Angeles Poverty Department: State of Incarceration
Provocative and powerful, audience members become part of the action by experiencing what prison is like on the inside seated atop rows of bunk beds that line the plain, large room. Surveillance cameras splashes video against the wall, as prison mates become prison guards hurling insults and commands between the long interims of punishing silences. A moving, opening number sung in a droning chant of pathos and pain details the long, sordid history of violence in a Greek-like chorus. The action is interrupted by the threats of prison guards who don on black sunglasses as they steely examine each inmate regardless of their actions. Performed by the LAPD, a theater company of people living and working in Skid Row, the message, while socially relevant, suffers occasionally from the rough-handed delivery. The endless refrain of being locked up rarely touches on personal responsibility. It is the fault of the system, which garners only so much empathy before it becomes white noise. “I walk, I sit, I look, I think…” At the end, a ceremonial casserole is created inside trash bags, using among other less appetizing ingredients, Ramen Noodles, garlic, Cheetos, mayonnaise, and Wheat Thins as the inmates share what little they have with each other and the audience. The concept is initially intriguing, but the result becomes tedious.
Directed by John Malpede & Henriette Brouwers
Cast: Henriette Brouwers, Mary Davis, Walter Fears, Linda Harris, Austin Hines, Chas Jackson, Jimmie Marlon Johnson, JoDyRaY, Ari Kadin, Kevin Michael Key, John Malpede, Riccarlo Porter, Ibrahim Saba, Adrian Turnage, Carmen Vega, Ronald Walker, Celestine Williams
--M.R. Hunter (eyespylareview[at]gmail.com)
Photos courtesy of the productions
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