Thursday, September 22, 2005

Redmoon Theater's "Spectacle '05: Loves Me...Loves Me Not"

The popular Redmoon Theater has mounted another of their summer spectacles, Loves Me…Love Me Not, this time creating a fire lit set of a sunken house and floating barges in the lagoon in Jackson Park behind the Museum of Science and Industry.

After the devastating hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast of the U.S. the story of the production became that Redmoon engaged in a frantic rewrite of the piece to avoid the misinterpretation of the work as exploitive.

Unfortunately, the resulting spectacle was empty. Their romantic scenic design, which is usually a strength, was murky, under-lit and too far away from the audience. The action often did not read at that distance and I wonder if there was much plot there even if it had.

There is a generous critical review in Tribune's Metromix up right now that I suggest reading.

Mostly it is on point I think though Keery Reid waxes philosophic and reaches a bit with the claim that,

This isn't a piece of theater as much as it is an attempt to create a meditative space for an audience, and though it falls short occasionally


While I feel that the piece fell short more that occasionally as a narrative, I think it is misleading to suggest that this piece works as a static object of contemplation also.

What was this spectacle of contemplation? To me it seemed like an attempt at the spectacle of children playing in a bathtub. An attempt at a drama of childhood innocence that perhaps was intended to bolster our spirits and remind us stay hopeful. But, in it's murkiness and emptiness Redmoon’s good intentions seemed desperate and scared in this spectacle.

The romantic drama of good people making a good effort at trying to survive in a sort-of challenging, sort-of wondrous, waterlogged world was thin. This came together as a collection of quirky Muppet show type figures that would seem to love to give gifts, sing and dance but unfortunately, there is some lurking authoritative figure who occasionally shines their gaze on the party and that is supposedly a scary drag. Mom is threatening to take you out of the bath, and it is the fear of this authority that breaks up the natural goodtimes and leads to base thievery and violence.

I am not left contemplating Redmoon's whimsy nor charged with hope in the face of recent national tragedies and am unconvinced by their anti-authoritarian posturing. I am left feeling Redmoon is more scared to lose their fan base and funders than actually give us the fantastic hope-filled goods. I wonder what the original piece contained before the specter of losing their status robbed the show of its content.

I believe this world they tried to suggest was one where the population was built into an enduring watery environment rather recovering from a temporary cataclysm and were beginning to transform their landscape with their engineering ingenuity (a Redmoon strength) by creating objects that transform for multi-use. It seems like that imaginitive world, more fleshed out, even if lacking a solid plot would be inspirational and heroic as Redmoon seeks to be...as Henson or Chaplin has in the past.

I am ready to accept Redmoon’s imagination and maintain the distinction between their work and reality. I hope they underestimate their audience and that their fans can approach the Redmoon work with at least that much trust and effort as well.

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