13 June 2008

Shout-out and review

A quick shout out to Liz, who is busy texting over at her new blog. She’s a friend from a past-life (so it feels) - several years back in the gorgeous mountains of North Carolina. And she’s hilarious. I promised her some link love this week, so here it is!
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I went to see the “Trap Door” video-opera last night at The Lab Theater. I’d never been to that venue before…to describe it as “intimate” would be generous (in terms of size).

As to the performance itself, as far as I can tell, the show went well. (That’s one of the perks of “new” music: nobody in the audience can tell if you’ve messed up or not, because nobody knows the piece - unlike, say, Madame Butterfly.) The performers had a wonderful score to work with – some really gorgeous bits of music in there – and it was a talented and well-balanced cast (read: no weak spots). And no, I’m not just saying that because I know some of them. I feel that the standout, however, may have been the one man who didn’t sing a note. He was billed as the “supernumerary” and played many roles throughout the entire show, ranging from IED-emplacer, to father, to just being somewhat of a silent Greek chorister than an actual character. I hard a hard time keeping my eyes off of him – the way he used his body-language and face to convey and react to even the tiniest of passing thoughts was amazing.

The main story centers on Private Able during his deployment in Iraq. We see him as he goes on patrols, flirts with the laundry lady (who tells him she doesn’t date Soldiers because they don’t make as much money as the contractors), gets injured in an IED attack, recovers on base, and finally returns to duty – when shortly thereafter, he fires at and kills an unarmed national. (Ripped from the headlines, perhaps?) Of course, the whole crux is whether or not that shooting was accidental or not. I give credit to the composer for not necessarily answering that question for us - but lets us come to our own conclusions. The use of video was quite effective in setting the scene for the action. Sometimes humorous (washing machines) and sometimes tragic (aftermath of a car bomb) – the shots were never too distracting as to pull focus from the actors.

My only criticism of the whole production was that it was too short. Clocking in at about 50 minutes, it felt more like a sampler of a larger piece of work and left me wanting…more. There were many clear story threads and characters, but never quite enough time for any of them to fully tell their stories (or sides of the story) – or for the audience to connect too deeply to any of them. The intimate setting, lush music (especially the duet between Able and Ashley as Able lay recovering from his wounds), and intense subject matter all came together to create a great deal of potential for a deeply emotional experience . . . but there was not enough time for the inertia to gather and transform all of that potential into something more. This was not because of the performers by any means – but because of the structure of the piece.

Overall, I’m glad I went to see it. I hesitate to say I “enjoyed” the experience of watching this – but that’s only because of my own touchiness about the subject matter, and not a reflection on the production or performers.

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