Friday, August 08, 2003

Fringe - Day 7 - Part 1

Spring Awakening
Red Eye

Any show that starts out using Philip Glass' soundtrack for the movie The Hours has me on its side going in.

I'm torn. I'm almost hoping this production is a dry run and they're going to remount it fully later on. (It's this company's premiere production and a gutsy choice at that)

At the center of it all is a really fine performance by John Heimbuch as Melchior (the one student of three that the play focuses on who isn't six feet under by the final scene)

The decision to have all the adult and authority figures be puppets was actually really interesting. But I'd urge the company to consider taking it even farther. By the time the play really got going, I understood that the adults were not just to be seen as inhuman, but also as grotesque. But because the puppet who was Wendla's mother in the opening scene was the first that I saw, and she wasn't outrageously grotesque, I thought she was just a really badly made puppet. That obviously wasn't the intent. She was meant to be less of a monster than the shoolmasters, but I didn't see that except in retrospect, which was a little too late. The monstrous schoolmaster puppets could also be taken further. Seriously, why not go all out, make them not just ugly but also HUGE and menacing figures. And I think leaving the abortionist offstage was an opportunity missed. She should be be, in this context, the most menacing puppet of all. We shouldn't be surprised to find that Wendla is later dead. It should make a strange kind of sense. It should be something we dread and then sadly have confirmed for us.

The actors need to work more with the puppets. They either need training or to spend more time with their puppet alter egos, or both. Greater skill with the puppets would have made them seem more like actual cast members, and thus even creepier, driving the point home more strongly.

The space in Red Eye is so generous and the set pieces for this production so simple, that I found myself wishing they had done more to push the boundaries of the audience's imagination and had scenes existing more simultaneously on stage. We would have accepted it as a theatrical convention and it would have helped keep the pace of the evening up, avoided blackouts and kept the episodic nature of the script from breaking the evening up into too many little pieces that sometimes seemed disconnected from one another.

It's a vital text, and one that in this time in our particular society we really need to see. I applaud them for taking it on, and for not being afraid to find some of the humor in it.

Might I suggest a puppet that looks vaguely like John Ashcroft?

No comments: