Review: Orpheus: Featuring DJ Puzzle as Fate (Filament)

  
  

Talented cast creates buzz, excitement – but not quite a play

  
  

Orpheus-Cast-Web

 
Filament Theatre Ensemble presents
 
Orpheus: Featuring DJ Puzzle as Fate
 
Adapted and Directed by Omen Sade
Original Music by DJ Puzzle
at the Lacuna Artist Lofts, 2150 S Canalport (map)
through May 28th
tickets: $10-$15  |   more info

Reviewed by Jason Rost

Welcome to Club Dionysus. Following Filament Theatre Ensemble’s Friday and Saturday night performances of Eurydice, audiences have the opportunity to stick around for the dance party retelling of the same story in Orpheus: Featuring DJ Puzzle as Fate. This dizzying and bizarre adaptation was created and directed by Omen Sade, who has incorporated several elements into this production that don’t always mesh. What he does create though, is an excitement and buzz through his utilization of DJ Puzzle and a multi-talented cast.

Nathan-Paul-as-a-Bouffon-WebUpon reentering the space, after a quick renovation following Eurydice, you’ll be asked to show an ID (usually a good sign, in this case you can get a smattering of wine). You’re greeted by the nymphs (Alyssa Denea Duerksen, Becca Drew Emmerich and Ashley Moret). After some time spent calibrating to the change of venue, and change of theatrical aesthetics, the nymphs gather attention with loosely choreographed hip hop dancing that will hopefully become a little tighter with time. We meet our hero, Orpheus (Kevin Barry Crowley), who is a famous rapper in Sade’s play. His entrance takes advantage of the gorgeously industrial freight elevator in the space. Crowley proves to be intense and skilled, working in tandem with DJ Puzzle in creating on-the-spot loops and layering on top of them.

Although the atmosphere is at first exciting, too many gaps of the story are clearly filled inside Sade’s head rather than onstage, such as why Eurydice is dressed in a business suit, or what exactly has brought these two together. It is taken for granted that the audience is familiar with the myth, and if you’re unaware of the story and do not see Filament’s Eurydice prior to this production, the events simply will not be communicated as this production stands alone. This is also partly why it’s best to see the double bill if you’re going to go to either production.

Even with the half-hearted storytelling, the after-party that is Orpheus provides an intoxicating experience. It also makes more interesting use of the Lacuna Loft space than Eurydice. While Eurydice appeared more like an attempt to transform the space into an alley style theater, Sade’s Orpheus fully embraces the vast starkness of the open areas. In the underworld, when Orpheus is followed by Eurydice on their exit out, they cross over into another vacant area of the floor which provides an opportunity for the audience to peer through and spy on the ghostly procession. Audience members are also encouraged, rather strongly, to take part in the festivities and dance. However, there is a barrier about the main dance floor around DJ Puzzle that seems off limits to the audience. The staging becomes only about half promenade. While there are a few opportunities for the audience to roam, they are mostly delegated to the wallflower position due to the central space almost always being occupied by action.

     
Jack-Novak-Lindsey-Dorcus-Nathan-Paul-as-Bouffons-Web Kevin-Crowley-as-Orpheus-and-Audrey-Bertaux-Skeirik-as-Euryd

The bouffoons (Lindsey Dorcus, Jack Novak and Nathan Paul) rival DJ Puzzle as the hardest working members of the cast. While their acrobatics are increasingly impressive, their commedia routines fall flat more often than not. Eurydice (Audrey Rose Bertaux-Saint) is performed largely through movement and action. Her acrobatics in the underworld is talented, yet doesn’t exactly communicate much about where she is and what state she is in.

Kyle Land’s lighting provides for some haunting images, inducing an effect reminiscent of German expressionism. Mieka van der Ploeg’s costume design distracts more than helps in this play, contrasting her whimsical design in Eurydice.

Overall, the balance between dance club and play is hazy to the point where there were several moments I’d rather just drop the story all together and simply enjoy moving around the space in this loft rave. DJ Puzzle is transfixing, but his role as Fate never truly comes to fruition. Nevertheless, when the story is in motion, it is told subtly through physicality. As a stand-alone production I couldn’t imagine Sade’s retelling to be worthwhile, but as a compliment and nightcap to Filament’s Eurydice, it’s just weird and fun enough to merit extending your night in Pilsen a little longer.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

Becca-Drew-Emmerich-Ashley-Moret-Alyssa-Duerksen-as-Nymphs-W

Orpheus: Featuring DJ Puzzle as Fate is adapted and directed by Omen Sade. It will run Friday and Saturday nights at 9pm through May 28th in conjunction with Eurydice. Tickets are $15; $10 if purchased along with Eurydice. Ticketing information is available at www.filamenttheatre.org/tickets.

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REVIEW: Disgrace (Blank Line Collective)

 

Brilliant Disgraced

 

 

blank line collective - disgrace card

   
Blank Line Collective presents
  
Disgrace
   
Written by John O’Keefe
at
Lacuna Artist Lofts, 2150 S. Canalport (map)
through October 16  | 
tickets: $10  |  more info

Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

I am always leery of tales about women on the edge. They never seem to go far enough in showing how far a person can be pushed. It’s considered normal to think of men as coolly murderous or lecherous characters in theatre and film. When that character is a woman there is much made of analyzing the behavior and fraught discussion of how this abomination came to be. The Blank Line Collective production of John O’Keefe’s Disgrace lives and breathes brilliantly in a nebulous now moment. The setting is described as a picnic, but there ends the bucolic scenario. Three women are running away to have a picnic but seem to have escaped an institution of some sort. Stephanie Brown, Amanda Lewis, and Melanie Sizemore play the roles of Simone, Katherine, and Christine. These women are framed in a surreal state of mind. They are dressed in diaphanous dresses and delicate lace but the accoutrement are mired in dirt and sweat – not at all ladylike.

Have Simone, Katherine, and Melanie formed a band of refugees fleeing a crime or has the crime been committed against them? They are vicious with each other and at once loving as they manically roam the countryside of imagination. The women claim to be disgraced and outcast for the crimes of love, lust, psychotic visions, and worst of all forming an unbreakable and incestuous bond with each other.

I have to say that my breath was taken away the minute the action began. Blank Line Collective has created a near perfect synthesis of space and action. The audience is in the center of the room while the action occurs in the round. I felt like I was on a runaway carousel and not the cute kind. The animals on this ride were frothing, sweating, and open to the world with nostrils flared. The audience is sitting in a pure blackout. All senses are on edge when you hear the women’s voices coming offstage in a shrieking cacophony. The lights come up and there is a collective consciousness of hypersensitivity. Brown, Lewis, and Sizemore give gorgeous and devastating performances. They present a kaleidoscope of escapist whimsy, delusion, and atavistic violence in the pursuit of escape.

The characters have all loved the same man and they all claim to have participated in his murder and the murder or disappearance of his progeny.

Blank Line Collective - Stephanie Brown The cast makes its’ way around the raw loft space that is scattered with what looks like detritus from a derelict country estate. Each quadrant of the space represents a step closer to a peak they are racing toward and yet terrified to reach. All of the picnic spots have the eerie feel of a Fauvist painting gone awry. The garden is a sparse collection of pots and dried branches but the women imagine it to be the field of poppies from Oz as they wallow in the narcotic escape. The picnic is but a utilitarian meal of two sandwiches and a can of soda perversely taking the role a dainty tea spread. Simone savages part of the meal with a purloined pocketknife. The washing scene is cleansing, erotic and yet still leaves the mind to wonder what they are preparing for now. Even though I knew what the climax of the play would be, I still felt shocked and drained by the pure adrenaline of the cast.

John O’Keefe was raised in Catholic orphanages and juvenile homes during the post-war baby boom years. The institutions of that time suppressed human urges and freedom of the soul while purporting to save the soul. The feel of society decaying rather than progressing is palpable in his work and from that decay comes renewal and hope for freedom. The rhythm of this particular work drummed in my psyche like the works of the Beats. All of the elements of nature are alive and viscerally dangerous despite seeming to exist in hyper Technicolor. O’Keefe presents the American female psyche and frees it from the everyday minutiae. The feminine attire and mores are torn asunder and literally dragged through dirt. The biological restraints of womanhood are figuratively seared off.

Blank Line Collective is dedicated to presenting theatre that is new and off the grid. They are a group of artists who do not toe the usual line; it is a slap of bracing fresh air. This is something to see and to be supported.

    
    
Rating: ★★★★
   
   

“Disgrace” has a limited run Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm September 24th through October 16th. Performances are at the Lacuna Lofts, 2150 Canalport in Chicago. Get more information at www.blanklinecollective.com