Monday, August 16, 2004

Fringe Day 7, Part 3 - August 12, 2004, 8:30pm

Vision's Tale: Curse of the Machine/Cycles of Social Haunting/Birth of Vision
Infinity Star Productions
CalibanCo Theatre

This show was one of the best surprises I had at the Fringe this year.

I was fully expecting this show to be a completely cheesy sci-fi geek extravaganza - much in the same vein as The Judas Cradle. I would have been quite happy with that. But I was completely (and happily) wrong about this one.

First, there's the script. It goes beyond simple sci-fi to full-on socio-political allegory, and a scathing one at that. Not just the follies of our present government and business leaders, but the genocides and slavery of our past are invoked. Strong stuff expressed in gorgeously lyrical dialogue that is constantly tipping over from prose to sheer poetry.

This could all have been a bit much to take, it could even have been overwrought or campy in the wrong hands. But these are clearly the right hands. The creators of this show, who have been shaping it for several years now, are also performers, both major and supporting, as well as those responsible for the intricate artwork and set design. It is clear they have a vision, and are earnest and sincere in expressing it. They wish to entertain, but they also wish to make us think. They succeed on both counts.

This is also a change of pace from the majority of shows I've seen at the Fringe because it is truly a multicultural mix of actor ethnicities. Skintones ranged across a wide spectrum of colors. White was not among them. It was a most refreshing change of pace.

There are some bold acting choices going on here, too, which extend not just to vocal gymnastics, but also to vivid hair and makeup as well - including things like a man with his face completely painted over by the stars and stripes of the American flag. The actors are submerged completely within their characters. I haven't a clue what these people would be like in real life because they were so fully committed to enacting the sometimes heroic, sometimes awful, characters that inhabited this script.

Spectacle was also a huge part of the attraction of this play. The set, artwork, hair and makeup have already been mentioned. Special mention must also be made of the giant Cybernetic Soul Snatchers - a trio of Grim Reaper clones in platform shoes clomping on stage in pursuit of our hero and heroine. These were great, imposing, nightmarish figures, who made an impression even among some very bizarre company populating the CalibanCo stage.

I feel I haven't really done the play justice. It's hard to encapsulate all the complexity of this script, boiling it down to simple good vs. evil. But what a joy to find a script, and a production, that, even as they acknowledge the grim realities of the present, are ever hopeful that heroes will rise, and the future will be better. Because it must.

I look forward to seeing more from Peter Jensen, the author/director, and his artistic cohorts.

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