The War Within/ All's Fair
War/Fair is The MovingCompany's new devised work. They workshopped and built the foundation for this show at the University of Minnesota last fall working with students in the BA program. The show has been reworked, recast, and now The MovingCompany presents their latest version of War/Fair.
Since I saw the original version it was hard to not be constantly aware what was new and what had stayed the same. It became a unique exercise of seeing a show in two different stages of development. It also became very hard to not compare and contrast which production was better. So I will make lists of the changes I liked and list the aspects of the original production I missed.
What I liked:
- Every character had a clearer through line or arch of development throughout in this production. The first production of War/Fair at the U had lots of one-off vignettes and characters that never reappeared.
- The level of absurdity of the characters was toned down just enough to make me think of real people. Watching the original production the characters were so out-there that it was really hard to connect to any of them. In the new production I saw characters playing out the extreme version of people I really know.
- The addition of the "Bossman" character was very helpful. It provided direction and flow in between scenes and he was one of the funniest people on stage in my opinion.
- The romance aspects between the dead character and the awkward girl were very satisfying
What I didn't like
- Some of the flair and energy of the original production seemed to be missing. Now I saw this production on a preview night with an audience of 10 people so I am taking that into account.
- The design of this production was not nearly as beautiful. In the original production the advanced lighting design that themed itself on florescent lights added to the feeling of corporate and authoritative atmosphere. I also missed the vom. ramp and the cast sliding off the stage.
- In the original production there was just the right amount of singing. In this revamp there were two or three songs too many and it started to feel like dead space.
- This newer production ran much longer than the original. I remember leaving the U of M production wishing there was more content. In contrast I found myself checking the time multiple times in the revamped production. Several scene could have been condensed or cut.
Praise and criticism aside I highly recommend this production to everyone. It is worth the price and will provide you with some much needed laughter in these polarized political times. You can check performance dates and purchase tickets here.
So the next show i was able to see was a work from Lisa Channer's Advanced Directing class at the University of the Minnesota. I hoping to see the entire series of plays that were being presented the last few weeks of school, but unfortunately Spring Awakening ate my life.
The piece I got he see was a devised work call Trans. The show had a very honest and direct conversation with the audience about gender stereotypes and the roles we force the sexes into. Now you know you go to a liberal institution and have a "politically correct" aware audience when the director starts the show with the comment: "It is ok to laugh. We encourage laughter." So let me go through what worked for me and what did not.
What I liked
- This production kick started with very sassy and sexy dancing. It drew me in right away and lowered my guard a little, since I was walking into an experimental theater piece entitled Trans
- I loved the use of the alien/robot/thing that investigated the gender non-conforming subjects. It added some much needed comedy is a very serious scene.
- I also enjoyed the hand puppetry that erupted out of the trash bags. It was very funny.
- My favorite design element of this production was the lighting in the male female scene. the blue and pink lighting acted as a stark barrier between the two genders.
What I didn't like
- Some of the scenes got repetitive and I would have rather seen other ideas or themes explored than returning to the trash bag hand puppetry or the gender barrier scene again.
- There was almost no text in this show. Which would make me think that when characters do speak it is very significant. When characters spoke it seemed to lacked over-all theme or the significance I was looking for. Either those lines should really means something powerful or don't break to the choice of no dialogue. I love the robot line of "subject normalized" that was eerie.
- Towards the end of the show the director ran onstage and started talking and I ended up on this awkward position of questioning: Is this part of the performance? Is this on purpose? It ended before I could fully comprehend or understand what it meant. I don't necessarily think it was a bad choice I would say just make it clearer of what the intention behind the choice was.
I understand this is a work in progress and is not intended to be a final product. I look forward to seeing more advanced versions of the show next year. I also commend to collaborators for taking on a subject matter that is not talked about enough and is not easy to discuss with an audience.
Rossum's Universal Robots (RUR)
The third work I got to attend last week was RUR a senior project of at the University of Minnesota. Now full disclosure I have worked on different productions with the director of this show twice this year and my best friend was a robot ensemble in the production. That being said I still feel confident in giving a fair review of the show.
What I liked
- The sound design of this show was fantastic. I may just be saying that because a lot of it felt like it was lifted from my Ipod, but it really fit the weirdness and disturbing nature of the show as well.
- I love the robot interludes that broke up in the action of the play. They were interesting and really added an interesting layer since in the show we don't get to see the robots a whole lot.
- I like all the scenery and prop choice. The robot high council podiums were especially cool at the end of the show.
What I didn't like
- The chemistry that was suppose to exist between the robot activist and the head of the robot factory did not exist for me. I didn't understand or believe for a second why she married him.
- I haven't read the play, but things seemed to be moving very fast and I felt very rushed in the world of RUR. I don't know if cuts were made to the script or not but the pacing seemed rushed to possible meet an hour run time.
- My biggest complain with this show however is mainly a political one. Like I stated before I have not read RUR so I can only go off this production and the work maybe radically different. I don't agree with the major theme or message of this show. What I got from this play is "Don't help the oppressed break free because they will just turn around and oppress their oppressors." The way the female lead shrugs off the fact that she doomed an entire race of beings to mass genocide is repulsive. The robot murdered humanity and therefore genocide is all they deserve? No! Wrong answer! After WWII we didn't send the German population through the gas chambers for what they did to the Jewish people. The way this play ended made me very uncomfortable as an audience member.
So that is my recap of last weeks' theater productions. I will be traveling to Minocqua, WI tomorrow to perform Club Valhalla. I therefore will be away from internet until Sunday evening so I hope this lengthy post is enough to keep y'all tide over. Big weekend in Chicago this week. Good luck to all my anti-war comrades. I will definitely have thoughts on the protest early next week.
Peace and Love,