October 24, 2005

Theatrical Review

I work in Rosslyn, Virginia, right across the river from Washington, D.C. I work early hours, so when I first started I'd park in the garage and then walk all the way around the block to get to the front lobby of my building. When winter rolled in, someone showed me a couple of shortcuts through the connecting garages underneath the city block so that I could reach my destination without having to brave the elements.

I missed those walks though. Every morning, I'd walk along mostly deserted city streets, and each morning I'd pass the sign for the Spectrum Theater. For all that time, the Spectrum was presenting a one-man show, Defending the Caveman.

Stay with me, I do have a point and I'm getting there.

It's been almost a year since I'd noticed the sign at the Spectrum, and I was amazed when this past week I found myself in front of the theater (fire drill) and "Caveman" wasn't on the sign. I noted the contact information and on Friday evening I stayed late after work and caught a performance of Dracula.

The Spectrum is a small and intimate space, maybe 400 seats. It doubles as a conference center. The stage itself is small and I imagine that it presents significant challenges to the theatrical folks.

As for the play itself, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd done a little research on the Synetic Theater troup. They call themselves "non-traditional" and use a fusion of mediums to create their productions.

As the lights came up and illuminated the misty room (they had the fog machines going strongly enough fill the entire room - nice effect), a very stylized battle was acted out. Without a word being spoken, one heroic yet barbaric man fought alone, and we witnessed the birth of Dracula.

They closely followed the original story of Dracula, not the melodramatic "I vant to suck your blood" nonsense that I love, and that many people remember from the movies. Nor was it the over-romanticized Ann Rice mythos. Instead, you were drawn in and keenly felt the horror, the otherworldliness, the passion and sensuality of the story. Dracula is, at one level, a very erotic tale, and this performance captured that.

The one word that keeps coming to mind is "remarkable". The sets were minimal and for the most part, successful. As you would expect, flat blacks and crimson red were the dominant colors. Even the main characters were dressed in muted browns. The only exceptions were the two ingenues, who wore whites and creams. The soundtrack was wonderful, being an integral part of the story and effortlessly moving from background to foreground as needed. One memorable scene involved a character writhing and fighting off a cloud of swarming bats, with the existance of the bats wholly created via the music suggesting the fluttering of papery wings. Likewise, the lighting was masterful, especially where, in several scenes, one character would be barely illuminated at the back of the stage, as if you were seeing the thoughts of the foreground character. Choreography... I could go on and on.

I did think that the performance dragged a little about halfway through. Mostly, this may have been caused by the need to use more dialogue to make clear the storyline. I was completely enthralled up to that point, and after a brief time, the concluding scenes drew me into their world again.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I'm not sure that their style would lend itself equally well to all tales. I wouldn't want to see their version of, say, "It's A Wonderful Life", but I noticed in their program that they mentioned a production of "Jason and the Argonauts" that I would've loved to have seen.

I'm going to close with a quote from my favorite critic:

Fluid. Lyrical. Concupiscent.

A perfect description in three words.

Posted by Ted at October 24, 2005 11:48 AM | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks

"Defending the Caveman" was hilarious; hope you managed to see it.

Posted by: htom at October 24, 2005 01:03 PM

Live theater done well is a treat. Done in a way you've never seen it done before -- enchanting!

Posted by: Tuning Spork at October 24, 2005 08:41 PM

Color me hooked. That sounds interesting.

Posted by: BLUE at October 25, 2005 10:38 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Site Meter