It’s true, a sheet, or numbers of them, are the hit of an abstract performance piece on Broadway.
‘Symphonie Fantastique‘ played out through a small viewing screen accompanied by Berlioz played far too loudly in the smallest stage at the newly-opened Dodger Stages in my neighbourhood.
Dodger Stages is a fantastique space, the converted end result of the old Worldwide Plaza discount theatre. (Sadly I never got to enjoy the $5 second run movies.)
Whether the symphony was fantastique or not, however, lay in the eyes of the beholder.
This was a unique, New York experience. Abstract performance art featuring a cast of sheets, feathers, optic fibre lights, torches and foil-like curtains in a 100 gallon tank all powered by six extremely enthusuastic, wetsuit-clad puppeteers.
The fabrics were sublime, and paired with the inventive lighting, the range of colour, texture and movement paired to the music was remarkable. The performance left me feeling like I was in an underwater, orchestrated ballet of various creatures, doing an oceanic version of Disney’s ‘Fantasia.’
The final act was particularly striking, as two curtains of kelp-like foil, along with bubbles and other elements combined to provide a very creative interpretation of Berlioz’ score. The foil ‘creatures’ reminded my birthday celebrating friend and I immediately of sentinels in ‘The Matrix.’ (i.e. those octopus-like creatures who attack the hovercrafts.)
But that’s putting all the good stuff first. Because there were some less enchanting moments too.
The second last act was bizarre, and had me laughing so hard (but silently) that my seat rocked the row. I call it, ‘March of the pool noodles’ because that is simply what it looked like — pool noodles moving to and fro, somewhat in time to the music, and nothing much more artful than that.
I’m sure the people who walked out at about act three would have ran had they still been seated during this fourth act, but it paid to stay put for the fifth and final act, which really was delightful.
And in case you’re wondering how the critics rated this experience, it seemed to fall below the New Yorker’s high culture requirements; had only a descriptive one-liner from New York magazine; and was raved about in Time Out, which counselled, “An astonishing visual feast of form and rhythm, the play should equally amuse children, music lovers and anyone on psychotropic medication.”